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Published October 14, 2009, 08:12 AM

Area harvest could use dry stretch

Harvest is well behind schedule in the region, but farmers still have time to bring in their crops if the weather stays dry. “There’s no panic yet. There’s concern, though,” said Cass County Extension Agent John Kringler. “We can handle a little precipitation. Any big rain would hurt.”

By: Erin Hemme Froslie, The Forum

FARGO

Harvest is well behind schedule in the region, but farmers still have time to bring in their crops if the weather stays dry.

“There’s no panic yet. There’s concern, though,” said Cass County Extension Agent John Kringler. “We can handle a little precipitation. Any big rain would hurt.”

The harvest pace was slower than normal a week ago, and little progress has been made since then, U.S. Department of Agriculture numbers released Tuesday show.

For instance, only 2 percent of Minnesota corn is harvested, compared with 1 percent a week ago and the five-year average for mid-October of 15 percent.

In North Dakota, no corn has been harvested, compared with the five-year average of 11 percent for mid-October.

The soybean harvest is even further behind.

Minnesota farmers have harvested 26 percent of their soybeans, up from

19 percent a week ago but down from the five-year average of 66 percent.

In North Dakota, 17 percent of soybeans are harvested, up from 13 percent a week ago but down from the five-year average of 68 percent.

Soybean pods grow close to the ground, so combine headers must stay low to harvest the beans. That’s more difficult when fields are wet and muddy.

Cass County is the nation’s leading producer of soybeans, and the crop is common across eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota.

“We really want to get going again on soybeans,” said Al Mashek, general manager of Elbow Lake (Minn.) Co-op Grain.

The soybean harvest in his area has been shut down for more than a week, he said.

Moorhead-based American Crystal Sugar has harvested 65 percent of its sugar beets, said spokes-man Jeff Schweitzer.

He was uncertain how much of the crop, on average, normally is harvested by mid-October.

This year’s harvest is most advanced north of U.S. Highway 2, where less rain has fallen. Beet farmers south of the highway have made less progress.

Schweitzer said the cooperative is optimistic about harvesting all of its beets.

Freezing temperatures also have affected harvest.

Average temperatures in Fargo were below normal on each of the first 12 days of October, according to the North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network.

That included five straight days when the average temperature was at least 12 degrees below normal.

The cold weather ended the growing season for corn, Kringler said.

Some fields needed more time to reach full maturity, he said.

Freezing temperatures came too soon for Michael Johnston, who farms in Cando, N.D., in the north-central part of the state.

Cando had a low of 23 degrees on Saturday, the Weather Network said.

Johnston had completed his wheat harvest, but the freeze ended the growing season for his cabbage crop.

“It would’ve been great if we could have gone another week or so without frost,” he said.

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.

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