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Published July 06, 2010, 10:13 AM

ND climatologist can’t predict Crop Stop results into harvest

An uncertain weather forecast offers farmers in the region an uncertain future for the crop of 2010, but so far, things are looking good. Notably, this is the longest period that’s drought-free anywhere in the state in a decade, according to climatologists.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

An uncertain weather forecast offers farmers in the region an uncertain future for the crop of 2010, but so far, things are looking good. Notably, this is the longest period that’s drought-free anywhere in the state in a decade, according to climatologists.

The National Agricultural Statistics Service weekly crop progress and condition reports indicate most crops in the region in good to excellent condition, an indication echoed by farmers in an Agweek Crop Stop north and east of Bismarck, N.D., in late June.

Adnan Akyuz, state climatologist at North Dakota State University in Fargo, says the forecast through mid-July is for above-normal temperatures, but beyond that, the Pacific sea temperatures that can indicate higher or lower temperatures are too tough to read.

In fact, the three-month forecast is suggesting equal probabilities of below-normal, normal and above-normal temperatures.

This cropping season so far is near normal — with the east about 1 to 2 degrees above normal temperatures while the west is 1 to 2 degrees below normal.

Accumulated growing degree days for crops in places like Golden Valley County, N.D., in the west are 150 GDD behind five-year averages for corn, while the east is 100 GDD ahead of average.

Corn’s maturity depends on accumulated units. Corn rated 90- to 95-day maturity, for example, requires 2,150 GDDs. It’s too soon whether these differences from normal are significant.

“It is normal to have these kinds of swings in the middle of the growing season,” Akyuz says.

Akyuz says the region will be affected by an expected shift from El Nino to La Nina conditions, related to Pacific Ocean warming or cooling near the equator, but that’s not expected until December or January. A shift to La Nina normally is associated with a cooler, wetter-than-normal winter in the Upper Great Plains.

Notably, Akyuz says he’s responsible for reporting drought incidences into a national drought monitor system and hasn’t made any input into the system since the beginning of the year. That’s the longest stretch North Dakota has gone with making such a report since 2001.

“We are in a wet period, and this is the longest stretch where no parts of North Dakota have experienced any degree of drought since that system went into place,” Akyuz says.

Here are some Crop Stop interviews, taken from people along U.S. Highway 83, near Wilton, N.D., and then east

on North Dakota Highway

36, to the Woodworth, N.D., area:

Crop Stop views

- Baldwin, N.D.: Shannon Brown’s sunflowers were planted by May 22 and the grassy weeds sprayed June 15. At the time, he was watching the sunflowers for possible cutworm infestations. As of June 29, they hadn’t come.

“We should be in the clear now,” says Brown, who farms with his wife, Paula. The pair also raise spring wheat, which was turning dry.

Since mid-June, the farm has picked up about 2.5 inches of rain.

“A few spots got flooded out,” Brown says. “There’s some water damage now.”

Brown’s canola was seeded by May 1.

“It’s been blossoming for a good 10 days or more, and it’s at full blossom now.

“The later-season crop had some crusting because it was it was too muddy when we put it in,” he says.

He’s thinking of top-dressing on wheat because some of it was lost to leaching.

The Browns also have a

cow-calf operation. The grass/

alfalfa mix hay is average.

“I would say it’s looking average, because of everything it’s been through as well,” he says.

- Regan, N.D.: Todd Morris and his brother, Shane, farm together east and northeast of Regan. They Morrises raise spring wheat, winter wheat, canola and alfalfa for their herd of about 250 stock cows.

On June 15, Todd was starting to hay. Since then, there have been rains that have totaled some 2 to 3 inches, but the alfalfa seemed to keep pretty well in the windrows, yielding 1.5 to 1.75 tons per acre, which is “pretty decent” for a first cutting in this area.

The Morris brothers are caught up on wheat spraying.

“We’ve been applying quit a bit of liquid fertilizer, and that’s been going well, catching it between the rains. We’re still playing catch-up from last year’s nutrient needs,” Todd says. “We might try and do a little more, as far as trying to get some (added) protein.”

Winter wheat was starting to head out June 29, with the fields evening out well and “looking real nice.”

The canola crop has been flowering for weeks and looks beautiful.

“There’s a lot of canola around here this year, the way it seems,” Todd says.

He says there are perennial weeds to get after, including Canada thistle and leafy spurge in the pastures, but “the grass looks nice,” and the warmer-season grasses are starting to fill in as they move cattle into different pastures.

- Tuttle, N.D.: Dean Bayer of Tuttle, N.D., had rented more farmland in the past, but today is down to about 232 acres, with the rest seeded to alfalfa. At age 60, Bayer is happy to be slowing down a bit, but still enjoys the farming game, running about 100 head of cows.

The farm has 150 acres of spring wheat and about 82 acres of oats.

Bayer’s farm was wet in the spring.

“Some of the low ground was so soft I had to go around it,” he says.

The spring wheat got seeded by the end of May and is looking “pretty good” with a recent 1.3-inch rain. The wheat is at the two- to three-leaf stage and he hoped to get at the spraying the weekend of July 4. It had been windy, but he was expecting there would be breaks. Entering July, the oats were just “starting to shoot” and were about ready for spraying, too, but Bayer was more focused on getting the alfalfa hay up before it got too dry.

The alfalfa is good, but not quite as good as last year, Bayer says.

“I’ve heard guys talk that it’s about two-thirds as good as last year,” he says, noting that the lower, moister ground seemed to be the best.

Bayer lost an older barn to a wind storm in late June and a nearby farm lost a machine shed.

“I drove by east of Carrington (N.D.), and the wind took one or two buildings out of a chemical warehouse, scattered debris for a half-mile or more,” he says.

He says there’s the replacement cost, but the time cost of cleanup is sometimes more costly.

- Pettibone, N.D.: Jeff Mitchell farms between Pettibone and Courtenay, N.D., with his brothers, Stewart and Keith, in the Mitchell Brothers.

Mitchell says that at 50 years old, he and his brothers are farming a little less than they have in the past.

“In 1997, we chose to rent some out and do without as much labor,” he says.

One reason they’ve “pulled back” is because of labor availability. Still, he manages to sell fuel on the side, as well as other enterprises — custom seeding, harvesting and trucking.

Mitchell and his brothers all went to higher education before farming — he as a draftsman, his brothers as machinists.

“We came here in 1984 — bought land for $75 an acre and now it’s bringing $700,” he says.

The brothers’ land

includes a dozen irrigation circles that they rent out for potatoes that go largely to

Seaview Farms, which is associated Cavendish Farms in Jamestown, N.D. The Mitchells raise the rotation crops.

This year’s corn got planted by May 1. It was 20 inches tall by June 15 and will be nearly 3 feet by July 4. The Mitchells hire for their spraying and concentrate on haying this time of year.

Soybeans are looking good, despite early crusting.

“They’re a little behind, but they look good. Soybeans are resilient and will flex with the weather,” he says.

Mitchell doesn’t have spring wheat, but what’s in his region is looking as good as last year.

The brothers have 500 cows. They background-feed to 850 pounds and typically sell in January.

“It looks like a good year coming” for the cattle business, Mitchell acknowledges. “It looks like we’re going to see dollar calves.”

On June 15, Mitchell was working up a small piece of ground. The 30-acre piece had been in sod and rocks that he expected to turn into alfalfa ground.

“You’ve gotta make things pay on almost everything,” Mitchell says.

The ground never had had commercial fertilizer, he says, so the turned earth was full of worms, bugs and other things that seemed to attract the seagulls — possibly from the nearby Chase Lake.


Nass state reports

Here are state-by-state summaries for the region from the NASS reports from June 28:

North Dakota: Crop condition rankings percentages in the good-to-excellent rating categories mostly inched upward or hovered at about the same level a week ago.

Those percentages and changes: barley, 81 percent this week, 86 percent last week; durum wheat, 89 percent this week, 84 percent last week; spring wheat, 87 percent, 85 last week; oats, 86 percent this week, 85 last week; canola, 84 percent this week, 86 percent last week; corn, 89 percent this week, 88 percent last week; dry edible beans, 69 percent this week, 73 percent last week; dry peas, 76 percent this week, 83 percent last week; flaxseed, 76 percent this week, 78 last week; potatoes, 70 percent this week, 73 percent last week; soybeans, 84 percent this week, 86 percent last week; sugar beets, 78 percent this week, 76 percent last week; and sunflowers, 71 percent this week, 79 percent last week.

Crop progress rankings, compared with the previous week:

Barley, 58 percent boot, 27 percent last week; 22 percent headed, 2 percent last week. Durum wheat, 62 percent jointed, 32 last week; 18 percent boot, 2 percent last week. Spring wheat, 80 percent jointed, 61 percent last week; 22 percent headed, 6 percent last week. Canola, 35 percent blooming, 9 percent last week. Dry edible beans, 2 percent blooming, zero last week. Flaxseed, 4 percent blooming, 1 percent last week. Potatoes, 17 percent blooming, 2 percent last week. Soybeans, 98 percent emerged, 90 percent last week. Sunflowers, 87 percent emerged, 65 percent last week.

Much of northwest and eastern North Dakota are in surplus precipitation status, with only areas around Bowman and between Bismarck and Jamestown in short supply. The north-central part of the state is nearly 3 inches ahead of normal precipitation since April 1. Bottineau is now 4.3 inches ahead of normal, while Grand Forks is 3 inches ahead. Carrington and Robinson are among the farthest behind, with 1.4 inches and 1.7 inches behind normal since April 1, respectively.

n Minnesota: Crop condition rankings percentages in the good-to-excellent rating categories varied slightly from last week. Pasture: 88 percent this week, 86 percent last week; oats, 86

percent this week, 89 percent last

week; spring wheat, unchanged at 85 percent; sugar beets, 86 percent this week, 90 percent last week; corn, 90

percent this week, 93 percent last week; alfalfa, 77 percent this week, 81 percent last week; potatoes, 89 percent this week, 93 percent last week; soybeans,

83 percent this week, 89 percent

last week; canola, 36 percent this week 34 percent last week; green peas, 91 percent this week, 91 percent last week; sunflowers, 73 percent this week, 75 percent last week; and dry edible beans, 77 percent this week, 81 percent last week.

Crop progress: Corn, 32 inches this week, 21 last week. Soybeans 9 inches this week, 6 last week. Spring wheat, 73 percent heading, 50 percent last week. Barley, 80 percent heading, 57 last percent week. Oats, 81 percent heading, 64 percent last week. Alfalfa, 84 percent first-cut this week, 77 percent last week.

The northwest part of the state is ahead of normal in precipitation, with Crookston 2.8 inches ahead of normal since April 1 and Warroad 3.3 inches ahead. The west-central district varies from 0.84 inches ahead for the season at Browns Valley to 2.5 inches behind normal in Alexandria.

n South Dakota: Crop condition rankings percentages in the good-to-excellent ratings mostly inched upward from last week. Rankings this week were winter wheat, 88 percent this week, 86 percent last week; spring wheat, 78 percent, 75 percent last week; barley, 79 percent, 67 percent last week; oats, 89 percent, 84 percent last week; corn, 74 percent, same as last week; soybeans, 71 percent, 72 percent last week; sunflowers, 78 percent, 61 percent last week; alfalfa, 92 percent, 79 percent last week; cattle, 92 percent, 91 percent last week; sheep, 86 percent, 89 percent last week; range; and pasture, 90 percent, 89 percent last week.

Crop progress rankings, compared with the previous week, were winter wheat, 40 percent turning color, 14 percent previous week. Barley, 42 percent headed, 19 percent previous week. Oats, 12 percent turning color, 2 percent previous week. Corn, 25 percent second cultivation or spraying, 15 percent previous week. Soybeans, 2 percent blooming, zero previous week. Alfalfa, 57 percent first cutting, 45 percent previous week. Other hay, 30 percent cut, 17 percent previous week.

Stock water supplies are 37 percent in the surplus category, compared with 10 percent for the five-year average. Topsoil moisture is rated 42 percent surplus, compared with a 5 percent on average and subsoil is 40 percent surplus. Milesville, S.D., had 4.24 inches of rain on the week, the largest total.

All but the northeast third of the state is 2 or more inches of rain ahead of normal for the crop season, and the southeast corner of the state has had 3 inches more than normal since May 29.

n Montana: Crop conditions in the good-to-excellent categories: winter wheat, 76 percent this week, 72 percent last week; barley, 86 percent this week, 84 percent last week; spring wheat, 79 percent this week, 81 percent last week; oats, 87 percent this week, 83 percent last week; and durum wheat, 82 percent this week, 87 percent last week.

Crop condition percentages: Durum, 11 percent boot, 6 percent last week; spring wheat, 31 percent boot, 18 percent last week; winter wheat, 59 percent headed, 17 percent last week; camelina, 70 percent blooming, 16 percent last week; dry peas, 34 percent blooming, 21 percent last week; lentils, 15 percent blooming, 14 percent last week; and mustard seed 63 percent blooming, 26 last week.

Range and pasture feed condition is stable at 80 percent in the good-to-excellent status. Topsoil moisture is 97 percent adequate to surplus, and subsoil moisture is 92 percent adequate to surplus — both considerably ahead of the average in the 60s for those two ratings.