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Published September 14, 2009, 10:41 PM

Harvest remains behind schedule


Last week’s rain holds farmers up even more

More of North Dakota’s 2009 spring wheat crop is now in the bin than in the field, but harvest remains two to three weeks behind schedule in this year of a floody, late spring and cool summer.

By: Stephen J. Lee, Grand Forks Herald

More of North Dakota’s 2009 spring wheat crop is now in the bin than in the field, but harvest remains two to three weeks behind schedule in this year of a floody, late spring and cool summer.

Kevin Sharp wasn’t able to combine wheat Monday because of the 2.7 inches that fell over two days last week on his fields near Cavalier, N.D.

He, his brother and his father each have harvested only about 20 percent of their spring wheat in one of the latest crop years he can remember.

“What we have left (to harvest) was all seeded after the first of June,” he said Monday. “It’s still green.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s weekly survey of county extension agents, by Sunday, 56 percent of the state’s spring wheat was harvested, up from 44 percent a week earlier but still way behind the 91 percent harvested, on average, by Sept. 13 from 2004-2008.

Like most wheat farmers in the state this year, Sharp is threshing above-average yields, 40 to 50 bushels an acre and higher, but very low in the protein North Dakota’s hard red spring wheat is known for. Some as low as 11 percent protein, instead of the standard 14 percent, which knocks about $1.75 per bushel off the posted price of about $4.50 a bushel at his local grain elevator, he said.

He wasn’t even able to plant 37 percent of his acres, because of the flooded fields this spring. The “prevented planting” program helps out a lot in such circumstances, paying insurance, in effect, to cover much of the lost potential income and fixed costs on the empty fields.

His other crop is soybeans, and they are looking sort of short, he said. But if the weather stays warmer and sunnier than normal, ground can be made up, and last week’s rain actually helped his late crops, he said.

“If we can go another two weeks without any frost, we are not sitting too bad,” he said. “It will turn out all right in the end.”

USDA said 23 percent of North Dakota’s corn kernels were dented by Sunday, compared with 70 percent by this time in a normal year. Only 6 percent of the soybeans had dropped leaves by Sunday, compared with 44 percent by the same time in a normal year; dry edible beans such as pintos and navies showed only 18 percent had dropped leaves, compared with a more normal 72 percent.

Sunflowers gained 24 percentage points the past week in the number of ray flowers dried or dropped, as much as 70 percent, only about a week behind the more typical 88 percent by this time.

Only 5 percent of the potatoes were dug by Sunday, compared with 25 percent in a typical year. American Crystal Sugar Co.’s preliminary “pre-pile” harvest is on schedule, with 4 percent of the beets dug, which is normal. Full “stockpile” harvest is scheduled to begin Oct. 1.

Only 16 percent of Minnesota’s soybeans have dropped leaves, compared with 36 percent by this time, on average, from 2004-08. Minnesota’s corn crop is 56 percent dented, compared with 82 percent typically.

Reach Lee at (701) 780-1237; (800) 477-6572, ext. 237; or send e-mail to slee@gfherald.com.

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