Farmers behind but hopeful

Rain throughout the spring and summer might have had area farmers behind schedule all year long, but that hasn’t stopped them from having a positive outlook as this year’s harvest gets into gear.

Dan Mostad, grain marketing manager at Berthold Farmers Elevator, said harvest has been pretty slow so far, but what little grain that has come in has looked good.

“What we’ve been hearing from the producers are that yields are pretty good,” Mostad said. “We’ve just got a small sample size, but they’re pretty encouraged by what the yields are coming back at.”

Canola has been a particularly bright spot, with area yields so far close to or at record levels. As for wheat, Mostad said growers are just starting to get into those fields. Spring wheat, durum and winter wheat all progressed around the same rate this year because of the wet weather, and so far the yields appear to be decent to above average, Mostad said. A question mark still remains on quality, however.

“We’re seeing a little lower protein,” Mostad said. “Some of that has to do with the higher yields and the weather conditions this year where the nitrogen kind of leached and there wasn’t a lot of stress put on the crop.”

Mostad said harvests for barley, canola and field peas, which are all around 50 percent complete in the Berthold area, are the farthest along.

So far the barley crop looks to have very good quality and yields are above average. Around the Berthold area, Mostad said, field peas aren’t yielding all that well, but farther south the yields are quite good.

A slow start to harvest isn’t the only challenge the constant rain has brought to area producers this year, either.

“Around Berthold we were pretty hard hit with prevent plant. There’s a lot of open acres. There were some guys, some of their crops were put in in wet conditions so those won’t turn out as well,” Mostad said. “But for the most part, guys are pretty happy with what they’re getting as far as what got in.”

Looking a little further ahead in the harvest, Mostad said corn and soybeans are looking good in the Berthold area. That isn’t to say there aren’t things he worries about, however.

“We do need to stay away from a frost so they can complete their growing cycle and be harvested,” he said.

While the recent rains haven’t been good for wheat, Mostad said the row crops have benefited from the extra moisture. Yields for corn and soybeans are predicted to be good as long as there will be some hot weather in the days and weeks ahead to help finish off their growing cycles before harvest.

Overall, Mostad said, producers are probably anywhere from two to four weeks behind schedule this year, depending on the crop. He noted last year the small grains harvest was pretty much done by Labor Day, while this year it’s just getting started. On the other hand, harvest last year was complete abnormally early.

“Last year was an early year. We got in really early,” Mostad said. “And the summer helped out with heat and rain at good times, and a really dry August helped for harvest.”

Mostad said producers definitely have some positives to be excited about this harvest, namely yields, but the steady rain for the past three months definitely did put somewhat of a damper on things.

“I think the yields for what is out there, the producers are pretty excited about. The downfall is there is a lot of prevent plant acres in our area,” Mostad said. “The yields are making up for it, but there’s a lot of bare ground out here.”

Eric Eriksmoen, research agronomist at the North Central Research Extension Center south of Minot, said there is a lot to be excited about for this year’s harvest, especially with the recent hot weather to help offset all of the recent rain.

“Things look really positive right now,” Eriksmoen said. “This blast of hot air has actually been pretty nice, and a lot of the warm-season crops – corn and soybeans – have really taken advantage of this, along with the wet weather we’ve had. We have very good soil moisture.”

Even with the mostly nice weather of late, he said corn and soybeans both still have a ways to go yet, and he doesn’t expect maturation to happen until the third week of September.

As for small grains, he said they are close. Eriksmoen said south of Max, producers are harvesting like gangbusters, while north of Max, they are just starting. Still, he said, what he has harvested at the research center has looked good.

“The winter wheat that we’ve taken off so far has had really good yields. We’re talking probably 60, 70, 80 bushels (per acre),” Eriksmoen said. “And in the variety trials, we have varieties that yielded over 100 bushels. So that’s very good.”

As far as numbers he’s hearing from area spring wheat producers, Eriksmoen said yields have been anywhere from 42 to 60 bushels per acre, with 50 bushels a pretty typical number.

Test weights also have been decent. He said they initially thought test weights might be low, but that hasn’t been the case so far. Protein, however, has been on the lower side with 12 or 13 percent, which Eriksmoen said is to be expected.

He said wet weather can cause quality issues at harvest, namely lower test weights and protein.

“If we can get through the next few days without rain I think we’ll be harvesting some pretty nice crops in this area,” he said.

As in the Berthold area, many producers, including the research center, are behind schedule with their harvests.

“I think we typically would be in the field going full speed up here by this time of the year. We’re kind of right on the edge,” Eriksmoen said. “If we continue to get these warm temperatures and can stay away from rain here, we’ll be going full force next week.”

Although he hasn’t heard anything about barley, Eriksmoen said canola is still a bit on the green side in the Minot area. He’s seen some fields being swathed and expects harvest to start for that crop this week.

Roger E. Neshem farms wheat, soybeans, canola and corn in the Berthold area. He said he was planning on planting sunflowers, as well, but the wet spring kept that from happening.

Neshem’s first day in the field for harvest was Wednesday, when he was taking off some spring wheat.

“It’s going all right so far. We’re just getting into it,” he said, noting the quality and yield both look promising. “We’ll probably be a little better than average on some fields, and some others we’ll probably be below average because of water damage and stuff. We’ve had three different 4-inch rains this year, and I think I’ve had about 24-1/2 inches of rain.

“There’s some good spots and there’s some bad spots, and in the end it will probably end up being average, maybe a little better than average,” he said.

Neshem said he’s probably a good two weeks behind schedule compared to a normal year, although he said it’s getting harder to tell what’s considered normal anymore. He noted last year he started combining spring wheat on July 28, while this year it was a full month later on Aug. 28.

“So last year was early and this year was late,” Neshem said. “In the end it probably averages out long-term.”

“Hopefully the weather holds and we can get this knocked out,” he added. “It looks promising going forward, but we’re getting to the point in the year where the sun doesn’t stay out long enough.”

As for the other crops, Neshem said his canola is probably 10 days to two weeks out yet, as he still has to desiccate it. He thinks the soybean crop should be ready to go the end of September or first of October, which he said is right on track unless it gets cold and stays cold.

“We just need some heat. We need another solid three weeks of good heat like this so the corn can make it to maturity before it freezes,” Neshem said. “That’s kind of the big wild card, to tell you the truth.”

Neshem thinks his crop will do well this year, although there are still concerns. He said this year has been strange because of all the wild fluctuations the weather has taken, including a lot of early rain that hurt and unseasonably cool weather around the State Fair that actually helped.

“I guess we’re worried about the corn making it to maturity. Soybeans and canola look good. Barring an early frost those should be just fine. I’m positive. That cool weather stretch really saved us. If it would have stayed hot out we would have really seen some more yield loss just because it’s too many strikes against the crop,” Neshem said. “But when you have that cool 70-degree weather when the wheat is flowering and trying to fill, you can make up for a lot of mistakes and bad weather with favorable conditions like that. Now the heat late in the year like this is really helping out the soybeans and corn and sunflowers. We’ve been walking a tightrope all year.”