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Published November 16, 2009, 04:26 PM

Warmer weather helps harvest

North Dakota farmers made good progress the past week harvesting what may end up being a record-yielding sunflower crop. But the corn crop remains barely combined and way behind normal harvesting schedules.

By: Stephen J. Lee, Grand Forks Herald

North Dakota farmers made good progress the past week harvesting what may end up being a record-yielding sunflower crop. But the corn crop remains barely combined and way behind normal harvesting schedules.

Otherwise, the dryer-than-normal and warmer-than-normal weather the past week finally gave farmers the chance to put in nearly a full week of fieldwork. Not only harvesting, but digging down harvested fields, applying fertilizer for next season and fine-tuning drainage patterns across quarter-sections of now-cropless land, farmers gobbled up acres of field work that has been late all season.

The just-as-good news is that this week is forecasted also to be dryer and warmer than normal, promising for harvesting, according to the National Weather Service.

The dry edible bean crop in North Dakota is about all in the bin, with 96 percent of it harvested by Sunday, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s weekly crop progress report. Soybeans were 80 percent harvested by Sunday, compared with 98 percent in a normal year.

Progress

In Minnesota, soybeans were 92 percent harvested, compared to 99 percent in a more normal year, and were coming in at 14 percent moisture, pretty close to storable shape.

It was in sunflowers that farmers made the most progress last week, going from 32 percent of the crop harvested to 60 percent by Sunday in North Dakota. Normally, 88 percent of the crop would be harvested by Nov. 15, based on the average of 2004-2008.

In Minnesota, the sunflower crop is 59 percent harvested, compared with 31 percent a week ago and 88 percent in a normal year.

Still behind

North Dakota’s corn crop, however, has barely started coming off, weeks behind normal schedules. Only 8 percent of North Dakota’s corn has been combined, up from 3 percent a week ago, 32 percent a year ago by Nov. 15 and 74 percent by the same date in a normal year.

Minnesota’s corn crop is 43 percent harvested, double what it was a week ago but only about half what should be completed by now in a normal year. The Minnesota corn was coming in at an average moisture content of about 23 percent, 10 points above storable levels. North Dakota’s corn crop is even wetter.

Near record

The sunflower crop in North Dakota might average 1,557 pounds per acre this year, based on the latest USDA estimate released Nov. 9. That’s only 29 pounds below the record set in 2005, the Associated Press reported Monday.

In South Dakota, the sunflower crop is pegged to yield 1,809 pounds per acre, which would be a record for the second consecutive year. The two states grow three-fourths of the nation’s sunflowers, which mostly are crushed for cooking oil.

But overall sunflower production will be down 13 percent nationwide, mostly because of the wet, late spring planting season that kept many acres in eastern North Dakota and northwest Minnesota from being planted at all.

Plus some farmers, faced with getting something planted late, chose soybeans over other crops, including sunflowers, because they handle adversity well and return more profit generally.

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

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