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Published October 26, 2009, 04:37 PM

Going's still slow for harvest

October has been a slow month for farmers harvesting the last of their crops. Only 2.4 days last week were fit for field work across North Dakota, according to the U.S.

By: Stephen J. Lee, Grand Forks Herald

October has been a slow month for farmers harvesting the last of their crops. Only 2.4 days last week were fit for field work across North Dakota, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s weekly crop progress reports.

It’s the fourth week in a row that farmers in the state had 3.5 days or fewer to harvest because of rain and muddy fields. In Minnesota, last week was even worse: 1.9 days fit for harvest. Since Oct. 5, farmers have had an average of only two days a week to get their crops in, theUSDA reported Monday.

The long spell of wet weather has started to affect the quality of the crops left standing. One Grand Forks County farmer said last week he was seeing mold developing in navy bean fields waiting to be combined.

The crops that have been harvested are coming in extra wet, meaning more cost to farmers to dry them to be stored.

Soybeans in Minnesota are coming in at an average of 16 percent moisture, the USDA reported Monday, three points above storable moisture levels. That’s kept grain dryers going full bore, which contributed to a fire last week in a Crookston elevator dryer full of soybeans, destroying the dryer.

Only 44 percent of Minnesota’s soybeans had been combined by Sunday, compared to 93 percent by the same date in an average year. North Dakota’s farmers have harvested only 26 percent of their soybeans, compared to 87 percent in the five-year average by the same date.

Behind from average

American Crystal Sugar Co.’s sugar beet harvest is behind by 10 percent or more from average, and several receiving stations were closed again Monday because of the muddy conditions. About 82 percent of the beets have been lifted as of Monday, said Jeff Schweitzer, company spokesman. Normally by this date, 93 percent or more of the beets have been lifted.

But many of the 875 growers who own the Moorhead-based cooperative are finished and 12 of the 33 outlying receiving stations no longer have any beets to receive.

But the Hillsboro, N.D., and Moorhead factory districts have been especially slowed by the rain and mud, Schweitzer said.

Some beets have gotten their tops, or crowns, frozen, and have to remain in the field with growers hoping warmer weather will heal them enough to be harvested.

The average yield, co-op wide, looks to be edging a little down, closer to 23 tons than 24 tons as earlier projections indicated, Schweitzer said. The past two years, 25 tons an acre had become a benchmark for the co-op.

Schweitzer said conditions are so wet in some areas, he expects the remainder of the beet crop to come in “slower than we would hope.”

The beet lifting can continue until freezing temperatures and snow put a halt to it.

The corn harvest remains two weeks or more behind normal, with only 2 percent combined in North Dakota, compared with 33 percent on average by Sunday. In Minnesota, 6 percent of the corn was harvested by Sunday, compared with the 48 percent norm.

Sunflowers are 8 percent harvested in North Dakota, 20 percent in Minnesota, compared to the norms of 36 percent and 47 percent, respectively.

Dry edible beans, including navies and pintos, were 54 percent harvested by Sunday, compared to the norm in North Dakota of 93 percent. In Minnesota, dry beans were 88 percent combined by Sunday, close to the 99 percent norm.

Despite the wet month, all sectors of North Dakota farm fields are behind normal rainfall since April 1, except for the northeast (15.53 inches, .58 above normal); the southeast (18.52 inches, 1.91 inches above normal) and the south-central sectors (15.74 inches, 1.66 inches above normal.)

The Grand Forks area has had 15.90 inches of rain this growing season, 0.48 over long-term averages, which is about how much rain fell last week, according to the USDA’s report. Cavalier, N.D., has received 17.08 inches of rain since April 1, 1.54 inches over normal. Despite 0.51 inch of rain that fell last week, the Hillsboro area remains 0.08 inch under normal, with 17.05 inches of rain this growing season, USDA reported.

The Crookston area is 2.47 inches of rainfall above normal since April 1.

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

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