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Published August 10, 2010, 08:55 AM

Growers almost ready to switch gears from cereal grains to row crops

Farmers throughout the region are coming to the finish line on cereal crops, and most are looking ahead to promising row crops, according to National Agricultural Statistics Service.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

Farmers throughout the region are coming to the finish line on cereal crops, and most are looking ahead to promising row crops, according to National Agricultural Statistics Service.

The reports of excellent spring wheat yields from the recent Spring Wheat Tour are confirmed by several farmers in CropStop tours. We talked to these farmers on periodic stops from Powers Lake, north of Minot, to generally southward to Wilton, N.D., which is north of Bismarck. Here is what they had to say, followed up by state-by-state NASS crop quality and progress reports, issued Aug. 2.

n Powers Lake, N.D.: Steve Melberg farms near Battleview, N.D., which is about 12 miles north of Powers Lake. He raises lentils, peas, canola and durum. He also has about 20 head of cattle.

“It’s looking real good around here,” Melberg says. It’s been a big year for weed growth, but he’s been able to apply herbicides timely. “You can sure tell where you skipped,” he says.

He expects his field pea harvest will start at mid-August.

“I might swath some within a week,” he says.

Lentils are turning brown in high spots, but the low areas still are green. Canola was done flowering Aug. 2 and looks nice and thick.

“The durum looks great,” he says, noting that last year’s crop was a bit dry in the spring and probably averaged 32 to 34 bushels per acre. This year might be better, he says.

n Plaza, N.D.: After an on-again, off-again start, most farmers in the Plaza-Makoti Equity Elevator trade area got this year’s crop planted, and it appears it’ll be at or near last year’s record crop in the small grains, says Troy Zablotney, the site manager in Makoti.

“Right now, everything is looking really good,” Zablotney says.

The wheat in this area is about half spring wheat and half durum. He says he thinks farmers may be poised to flirt with last year’s results, which brought many farmers 60-bushel-per-acre yields on the spring wheat.

Zablotney says “there was more fertilizer put down this spring. That’s probably because last year was a lot that was used up in a big crop.”

Also, many farmers applied fungicides with early-sprayed crops, he says.

Canola in the area looks good for potential yield, as do the field peas.

“We’re already seeing some samples come in the door, with the peas,” he says.

n Max, N.D.: Randy Henne farms with his son, Brett, and his father, Melvin, a mile south of Max. This year, they struggled to get the crop planted, but most of the durum was planted by the end of May and they finished the flax seeding in the first week of June.

It rained most of June when they tried to get the spraying done. About 30 percent of the crop didn’t get the spray the Hennes would have liked to apply.

“Everything has gotten some hail on it, but the worst is here and west of here. The stuff that didn’t get hailed on looks pretty good,” Henne says.

The farm is spread out across 20 miles or so, so that offers some geographical diversity to avoid a hail disaster. Still, this year saw some heavy hail. The Henne home will need a new roof and new siding on the north side. The first storm came in mid-June and included pea-sized hail for 15 minutes and 50 mph winds.

The Hennes don’t carry hail insurance.

“It just sawed it off,” Henne says of the effect of hail on a durum wheat field just next to the house. “It had been 4 inches tall, but it took the crop down to black dirt.” He’d planned to reseed, but didn’t get at it. Surprisingly, the crop came back and now looks largely healthy.

There were other light hail storms on the field, and some of the heads are bent, indicating a trauma of a mid-July beating.

An odd thing: On Aug. 2, Henne got a telephone call. The caller was with the National Weather Service out of Oklahoma.

“They wanted to know if it was hailing here,” Henne says. “It wasn’t. I guess their radar showed that it was, and they were just checking.”

n Wilton, N.D.: Wes Doepke on Aug. 2 figured his spring wheat crop was about a week away from harvest.

“We’re just getting the equipment ready,” Doepke says. “Just fixing the machines, and trucks.”

This year’s planting started April 14. Doepke and his two farmhands from South Africa — Dirk Erasmus, who’s been with him six years, and Johan Scheepers, who had just started in early April — shifted back and forth among planting priorities. They started with spring wheat, shifted to field peas, back to spring wheat, then to pinto beans and finished with the spring wheat and soybeans.

“About two-thirds of what we have is spring wheat. We didn’t have any winter wheat this year,” Doepke says.

“Everything looks real good. The severe weather has stayed away from us — mostly to the north and south. The rains have been timely. Right now. we’re waiting for some dry weather because harvest is right around the corner,” he says.

The evening Agweek visited, Bismarck had just received another downpour.

Crop reports

Here are the state-by-state summaries of the most recent NASS weekly crop-weather summary, released Aug. 2:

n North Dakota: Harvest has begun for some crops, but limited because of wet conditions. Soil moisture is largely surplus in the eastern part of the state and rated short in an expanding area of southwest North Dakota, touching the communities of Bismarck, Beulah, Dickinson and Bowman. Bismarck has received rain since the report.

Barley is 77 percent turning ripe, nearly the 79 percent average for this date. Only 2 percent is harvested, compared with 16 percent average. Some 83 percent of the crop is in the good to excellent categories.

Durum wheat is 69 percent in milk stage, compared with the 80 percent average. Only 16 percent is turning ripe and none has been harvested, compared with a 4 percent average for the date. About 89 percent were in the good to excellent categories.

Spring wheat is 59 percent turning mature, compared with 68 percent average. NASS estimates that 83 percent are in good to excellent categories.

Canola is 54 percent turning ripe, the same as the average. Corn is 86 percent silking — up from the 70 percent average. 82 percent are good to excellent. Among those, 20 percent are ranked excellent.

Edible beans are 97 percent blooming and 65 percent setting pods — both ahead of normal and 74 percent ranked good to excellent. Dry beans ranks the highest in the “excellent” condition ranking.

Dry edible peas are 67 percent mature, up from 26 percent last week but behind the 78 percent average, with 82 percent good to excellent. Potatoes have 90 percent of the rows filled, which is ahead of the 73 percent average for the date. No vines had been killed at the point of the survey.

Soybeans are about on par with 69 percent setting pods and 5 percent were fully podded. Sunflowers are 22 percent blooming, up from 5 percent the previous week, but still less than the 39 percent average. Eighty-four percent are in the good to excellent categories.

n Minnesota: Frequent rains are slowing harvest on crops whose progress is ahead of pace. Topsoil moisture is rated 80 percent adequate and 17 percent surplus in the state, a bit wetter than the previous week. Northwest Minnesota points have had more than 2 inches of rain more than usual since April 1.

Corn and soybean development remains about average, despite excess moisture in some areas.

Corn is 30 percent in milk stage and 3 percent in dough. Soybeans are 48 percent setting pods.

Spring wheat is 92 percent ripening, ahead of the 74 percent average for the past five years, although 9 percent is harvested, compared with the average of 10 percent at this date. Barley is 95 percent ripening, compared with the 78 percent average. Potatoes are 6 percent harvested, a bit ahead of the 2 percent average. Dry beans were 75 percent blooming, 32 percent setting pods and 3 percent fully podded.

Crop conditions in the good and excellent categories: oats, 84 percent; spring wheat, 87 percent; barley, 83 percent; sugar beets, 88 percent; corn, 90 percent; potatoes, 95 percent; soybeans, 87 percent; canola, 55 percent; sunflowers 78 percent; and dry beans, 89 percent.

n South Dakota: A large band of land from northeast South Dakota to southwest South Dakota has received less than normal precipitation in the past month. The southeast corner of the state remains very wet.

Growing season reports are another story. Huron has had 8.6 inches of precipitation more than normal since April 1. Dupree has had 6 inches more than normal. Mitchell has 10.2 inches more than normal since the date.

Soil moisture rankings are 89 percent adequate to surplus, up from 84 percent last week and 59 percent last year. Subsoil moisture is 90 percent adequate to surplus.

Crop conditions continue mostly good to excellent. Here are totals for those two categories: spring wheat, 68 percent; barley 82 percent; oats, 80 percent; corn, 71 percent; soybeans, 65 percent; sunflowers, 68 percent; alfalfa, 72 percent; cattle, 88 percent; sheep, 91 percent; and range and pasture, 82 percent.

Crop progress percentages: winter wheat, 85 percent harvested; barley, 22 percent harvested, compared with 30 percent last year. Oats, 41 percent harvested; spring wheat, 78 percent turning ripe, 31 percent harvested, compared with normal of 36 percent for this date. Corn is 91 percent tasseled, 68 percent silked and 9 percent in the dough stage — all a bit ahead of the five-year average.

Sunflowers is 14 percent blooming, compared with 22 percent average.

n Montana: Glasgow won the prize for the most precipitation in the prior week, at 1.25 inches total. It was the only place in the state getting more than an inch.

Durum wheat was 14 percent turning ripe, compared with the 65 percent average for this date. Camelina is 67 percent turning ripe and 13 percent harvested, compared with last year’s 61 percent rate for this date.

Spring wheat in the state is 25 percent turning ripe, compared with 80 percent average for this date. Winter wheat is 95 percent turning ripe and 3 percent harvested, far below the average of 45 percent for this date. Dry peas are 12 percent harvested. Hay cutting is running on par with normal years.

Crop conditions continue at high levels in the good to excellent category — winter wheat, 82 percent; barley, 85 percent; spring wheat, 79 percent; oats, 82 percent; and durum wheat, 78 percent.