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Published August 13, 2009, 03:00 PM

Officials: Heat should help local crops

GF and Polk County agents say crops are doing fairly well right now
Willie Huot, agricultural extension agent for Grand Forks County, said the high temperatures will mostly help local crops. "By and large, the heat wave here is welcome for agriculture at this time," he said.

By: Ryan Johnson, Grand Forks Herald

While city-dwellers are reveling in this week’s sunny, hot days, area farmers are also welcoming the heat — heat that’s been elusive most of the summer.

Willie Huot, agricultural extension agent for Grand Forks County, said the high temperatures will mostly help local crops. “By and large, the heat wave here is welcome for agriculture at this time,” he said.

This heat is most important for row crops, especially corn, which Huot said is still at least two months away from being ready to harvest. Farmers in eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota faced delayed planting this spring because of flooding, and the relative lack of ideal growing conditions for corn has put the crop behind schedule.

“Those crops have been behind in growing,” he said. “This will be a large help to them to catch up in maturity.”

Still, a week of warm temperatures won’t be enough to guarantee a good turnout from corn crops this year. The biggest issue, Huot said, is simply having enough warm days left for the crop to fully grow.

“The looming concern right now is the growing season from here on forward,” he said. “The concern is if we get enough heat to mature. If we get an early frost … it’s going to have a significant impact on the corn crop.”

Good local crops

But other crops are in a little less precarious position this year. Huot said small grains are expected to have good test weights and good yields, even though they were planted late because of wet spring conditions.

“They’re very, very good crops coming on,” he said.

The hot weather may impact grain crops, though. Barley and wheat crops that are nearing maturity right now will likely go through the ripening process a little quicker because the hot temps will speed up harvest.

“Those early planted grains that are turning naturally, it should not have that large of an impact,” he said.

But eastern North Dakota farmers were about seven to 10 days behind normal harvest starting this spring, so some of the less-mature crops may actually ripen too quickly in the heat. That could cause a slightly lighter test weight, Huot said.

Russ Severson, regional extension educator for the University of Minnesota, said Polk County’s crops are actually doing better than some surrounding counties in Minnesota. North or south of Polk, fields were wetter in the spring, which leads to more preventive planting.

“You just don’t see a lot of that right in this vicinity,” he said.

Much like in Grand Forks County, this week’s warm temperatures likely will help row crops that are behind, he said. The heat could negatively affect sugar beets in spots with dry soil, but Severson said that shouldn’t be the case in Polk County.

“I think at this point, we’re probably doing pretty good on soil moisture so it’s not going to hurt anything,” he said.

Reach Johnson at (701) 780-1105; (800) 477-6572, ext. 105; or send e-mail to rjohnson@gfherald.com.

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