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Published November 30, 2009, 05:30 PM

Soybean, sunflower harvest about done; corn halfway there

Another week of warm, dry November weather pushed the late harvest toward a finish in Minnesota and North Dakota

By: Stephen J. Lee, Grand Forks Herald

Late Monday, chances were that — finally — half of the 2009 corn crop in North Dakota was out of the field as the harvest continues to lag nearly a month behind.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s weekly crop progress report, by Saturday night 40 percent of the corn in North Dakota was combined, up from 21 percent a week earlier, but far behind the 89 percent completion by the same date on average from 2004-2008. A year ago, 68 percent of the corn was combined by the same date.

Because Sunday and Monday were mostly sunny, dry and warmer than normal, like nearly every day in November, combines and trucks were rolling and a lot of corn was harvested, pushing the completion to near half a harvest in North Dakota.

In Minnesota, 78 percent of the corn was combined by Sunday, up 12 percent for the week and still well behind the norm of 98 percent for the date, USDA reported Monday.

But the unusually balmy weather for November is forecast to change this week to more normal cold temperatures and above-average precipitation in northeast North Dakota and northwest Minnesota. Measurable snow, perhaps 1 to 2 inches, was forecast to hit northeast North Dakota and extreme northwest Minnesota by late today.

The past four weeks, which was 8 degrees or so warmer than normal and much drier than normal gave farmers lots of opportunity to catch up on the late harvest.

The remaining sunflowers, soybeans and corn, in fact, came in more together than in a normal year, making it impossible for some grain elevators to find enough room.

A giant pile of corn can be seen alongside the Northwood (N.D.) Equity Elevator as testimony to how sudden a late harvest can be.

“The harvest came too quickly,” manager Scott Ostlie said. “We had the soybean harvest and the corn harvest together.”

Normally, soybeans are mostly harvested by early October, before the corn is ready. But the late, wet spring and cool growing season pushed everything back.

The corn has been averaging about 22 percent moisture, requiring drying down about 9 points before it can be stored, Ostlie said. He figures 90 percent of the corn around Northwood is harvested.

Ostlie said he’s not sure exactly how many bushels of corn he’s got heaped outside, but that it’s some less than 100,000 bushels.

There is no problem getting enough rail cars to haul grain, and he’s had no problem getting enough propane to dry the corn, although others report spot shortages, Ostlie said.

The moisture level in the corn was averaging 21 percent in Minnesota, 1 percent drier than a week earlier and 4 points wetter than normal, USDA reported.

The soybean harvest in both states is virtually complete. The sunflower harvest was 85 percent complete in Minnesota and 93 percent complete in North Dakota by Sunday.

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

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