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Published August 17, 2010, 09:36 AM

Hurtling to small grain harvest

The small grains crop is heading into full-scale harvest season, with crops generally in excellent shape, according to Crop Stop and weekly National Agricultural Statistics Service reports looking good.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

The small grains crop is heading into full-scale harvest season, with crops generally in excellent shape, according to Crop Stop and weekly National Agricultural Statistics Service reports looking good.

Your humble Crop Stop correspondent got in trouble with one reader or a poor choice of words. Yes, it’s the crop season — not the harvest — that seems to be hurdling toward the finish line. After a dressing down, we dust ourselves off again this week with another Crop Stop in eastern Montana and southwest Minnesota, followed by a weekly NASS summary for the four-state area:

n Sidney, Mont.: Jeff Klempel works as a “pumper” in the oil fields and bales hay in farm fields as he feeds some cattle on the side. He checks 23 oil rigs to make sure they’re running efficiently and feeds 160 beef cows. Part of that feed comes from his own flood-irrigated alfalfa on 70 acres, about 8 miles south of Sidney.

On Aug. 5, he was checking moisture content on some of the big bales. It was coming in at more than 20 percent moisture on one field, which was more than the less than 17 percent he’d prefer. He eventually finished the hay and went on to some straw.

This year’s flood-irrigated first cutting came in at about 2 tons an acre. Klempel doesn’t raise other crops, but he says it appears the malt barley in the region is looking as good as he has ever seen it, maybe in the 100-bushel category. He says dryland barley also is looking good, and combining was looking two or three weeks off, with “some more than a month.”

Winter wheat from nonirrigated land in the west of Sidney already is harvested, he says.

“Should be good,” he says. “Oughta do 50.”

Klempel says this year produced the most rain his area has seen in recent history, picking up 14 inches in May, 10 inches in June and about 3 to 4 inches in July.

n Glendive, Mont.: Bob Buxbaum and his family raise cattle and mostly small grains, about 10 miles north of Glendive. Some of his land is irrigated. This year’s spring wheat on the dryland acres is running at 40 bushels per acre, while the irrigated crop is going in the 60s. He’d done 200 acres by Aug. 5 and was working on a neighbor’s field that evening.

Barley is looking good, he says.

“We’re hoping for 60,” he says.

He’s hayed some of the barley and some peas, too.

It’s been a memorable year, so far.

“This is the most rain we’ve had in a long time,” Buxbaum says. “We’ve had over 10 inches, which is a lot for us.”

n Beach, N.D.: Tiny Ueckert has worked at Dakota Farm Equipment in Beach, for 10 years and has lived in the Beach area for 47 years. As parts manager for a major John Deere store in the region, he is heavily involved with farmers in his area with their annual crop quest.

“Most of the crops went in late, or borderline late,” he says.

Spring wheat, durum and some winter wheat are grown in the area.

“There’s a lot of peas, some lentils, corn and some canola,” he says. “A little barley: Not much.”

All of the crops are going to be affected in some way by the lateness, he says.

“Harvest is going to run really late,” he says. “Hopefully, we’ll be ahead of the frost.”

Some wheat was just starting to flower Aug. 6, and some is starting to head, and still other fields are nearly ready to cut. “It’s been a strange year,” he says.

The hay crop has been extraordinary, with the first cutting going 3 tons per acre in most cases. He doesn’t expect many second cuttings, however.

Only the harvest itself will tell the story of the 2010 crop.

“I used to farm, and there were times that my flax had 1,500-pound (per-acre) straw, but when you got into it, it would yield 600,” so it’s unpredictable.

n Belfield, N.D.: Ken Hart has a sense of humor, and that’s a handy thing as one mows road ditches in the open country along Interstate 94 in western North Dakota. Hart unexpectedly lost a lease on 120 acres of hay ground last year, so he and his wife needed hay for their 40 American Quarter Horse brood mares.

Hart bid in to the highway department to take ditch hay between Belfield and Medora, N.D. Hart’s winning bid was for $526 for a 210-mile stretch. It’s hard to say what a good deal is on this kind of bid, he says.

“You don’t know,” he says.

Hart has had a varied career, starting as a school superintendant. He was in the Milton-Osnabrock, N.D., schools for six years and retired after eight years in Underwood, N.D. In the past three years in retirement, he’s done a bit of everything, and he’s worked on the dream of Hart Quarter Horses.

“It’s my wife’s,” he says of the dream. He smiles and says: “It’s a nightmare.”

This hay crop will come in handy. He expected 400 bales, and he’ll end up with 900 to 1,000. He has some “horse buddies” who probably will be the recipients of some the extra.

Oh yes, he says, there may be a name change in his business. With the recent decline in horse prices, especially for the culls, he and his wife are starting to diversify into mules.

Is that going to be better?

“Who knows? Check with the wife. She knows everything. I recently threw out my set of encyclopedias because she knows everything,” he says.

Here are the state-by-state crop progress reports from the most recent report on Aug. 9:

North Dakota

Ongoing news is the moisture levels: 80 percent “adequate” or “surplus” for this date, compared with 53 percent for the five-year average. Harvesting is behind average, while small grain development is near or behind average. The north and north-central parts of the state still are about an inch and a half of rain above normal for the season, while the east-central is about one-third inch below normal since April 1.

Crop progress, compared with a week earlier: Spring wheat, 13 percent harvested, 24 percent average; durum, 1 percent harvested, 11 percent average; barley, 24 percent harvested, 36 percent average; canola, 25 percent swathed, 32 percent average; corn, 33 percent dough, 21 percent average; dry beans, 42 percent fully podded, 24 percent average; flaxseed, 32 percent turning ripe, 57 percent average; soybeans, 28 percent fully podded, 24 percent average; and sunflowers, 69 percent blooming, 65 percent average;

Crop condition ratings in the “good” and “excellent” categories, compared with the previous week: Barley, 79 percent, 83 percent last week; durum, 86 percent, 89 last week; spring wheat, 84 percent, same as last week; oats, 84 percent, 88 percent last week; corn, 87 percent, 85 percent last week; dry beans, 71 percent, 74 percent last week; dry peas, 85 percent, 82 last week; flaxseed, 82 percent, 83 percent last week; potatoes, 81 percent, same as last week; soybeans, 85 percent, 86 percent last week; sugar beets, 79 percent, same as last week; sunflower, 81 percent, 80 percent last week; and pasture and range, 73 percent, 71 percent last week.

Crops with the greatest percentage in the “excellent” category by itself, included sugar beets, 29 percent; potatoes, 27 percent; edible beans, 25 percent; and canola, 20 percent.

Minnesota

Small grain harvest advanced at a rapid pace, with wheat at 47 percent harvested at the report date, compared with 3 percent last year and 25 percent for a five-year average.

Here are current crop progress reports, with comparisons to average or last year: Corn, 21 percent dough, 15 percent average; soybeans, 78 percent setting pods, 70 percent average; barely, 46 percent harvested, 44 percent average; oats, 67 percent harvested, 56 percent average; potatoes, 12 percent harvested, 7 percent average; sweet corn, 21 percent harvested, 18 percent average; canola, 7 percent harvested, 7 percent average; dry beans, 20 percent fully podded, 3 percent percent last year, no average.

Crop conditions ratings in the “good” to “excellent categories, compared with the previous week: pasture, 83 percent, 87 percent last week; oats, 82 percent, 84 percent last week; spring wheat, 86 percent, 87 percent last week; barley, 83 percent, same as last week; sugar beets, 89 percent, 88 percent last week; corn, 91 percent, 90 percent last week; potatoes, 96 percent, 95 percent last week; soybeans, 86 percent, 87 percent last week; canola, 53 percent, 55 percent last week; sunflowers, 79 percent, 78 percent last week; and dry beans, 87 percent, 89 percent last week.

Crops with the top rankings in the “excellent” category only: Corn, 40 percent; potatoes, 38 percent; barley, 36 percent; soybeans, 30 percent; sugar beets, 29 percent; and spring wheat, 27 percent.

South Dakota

More than half of all small grains in the state are reported harvested, as farmers received warm, dry weather during the week.

Here are current crop progress reports, with comparisons to averages or last year: Winter wheat, 96 percent harvested, 92 percent average; barley, 44 percent harvested, 52 percent average; oats, 66 percent harvested, 72 percent average; corn, 32 percent dough, 19 percent average; soybeans, 63 percent setting pods, same as average; sorghum, 70 percent headed, 67 average; sunflowers, 33 percent blooming, 44 average; alfalfa, 83 percent second cutting, 85 average; and other hay, 92 percent cut, 90 average.

Crop condition ratings in the “good” to “excellent” categories, compared with the previous week: Spring wheat, 77 percent, 68 percent last week; barley, 77 percent, 82 percent last week; oats, 82 percent, 80 percent last week; corn, 75 percent, 71 percent average; soybeans, 73 percent, 65 percent last week; sorghum, 71 percent, 91 percent last week; sunflowers, 77 percent, 68 percent last week; alfalfa, 69 percent, 72 percent last week; cattle, 90 percent, 88 percent last week; sheep, 86 percent, 91 percent last week; and range and pasture, 83 percent, 82 percent last week.

Highest crop rankings in the “excellent” category alone were, corn, 25 percent; spring wheat, 24 percent; and oats, 21 percent.

Montana

Harvest has begun for spring wheat and barley, joining robust progress in winter wheat. A string of hot days has pushed crop progress forward, but crop condition ratings declined slightly.

Here are current crop progress reports, with comparisons to five-year averages or last year: Barley, 71 percent turning ripe, 83 percent average; durum, 44 percent turning ripe, 76 percent average; oats, 71 turning ripe, 94 percent average; spring wheat, 54 percent turning ripe, 90 percent average; alfalfa, 26 percent second-cutting, 36 percent average; camelina, 28 harvested, 87 percent last year, no average available; dry peas, 40 percent harvested, 56 percent average; lentils, 20 percent harvested, 15 percent last year; and spring wheat, 6 percent harvested, 21 percent average.

Crop conditions in the “good” and “excellent” categories, and comparisons to a week ago: Winter wheat: 78 percent, 81 percent a week ago; barley, 82 percent, 85 percent last week; spring wheat, 75 percent, 79 percent last week; oats, 83 percent, 82 percent last week; and durum, 72 percent, 78 percent last week.

Barley and winter wheat had the highest percentages in the “excellent” category alone, at 30 percent and 25 percent, respectively.

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