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Published August 24, 2010, 09:17 AM

Wheat harvest slow, yields good

The region’s wheat farmers need a few more weeks of favorable weather to finish harvesting what, on balance, should be a good crop.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

The region’s wheat farmers need a few more weeks of favorable weather to finish harvesting what, on balance, should be a good crop.

“The harvest is slow, but yields are excellent,” says Kim Falcon, executive vice president of the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee in Bozeman.

The harvesting pace varies. It’s behind schedule in North Dakota and Montana, ahead of normal in Minnesota and roughly on track in South Dakota.

Some farmers are just beginning to harvest wheat.

Bob Finken, a Douglas, N.D., producer, was hoping to start harvesting his wheat.

“Nobody in this area is going yet,” he says.

North Dakota farmers had harvested 27 percent of their wheat as of Aug. 15, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

That compares with an average of 38 percent in 2004 to ’09 and 3 percent in 2009, when spring flooding delayed playing and a cool summer slowed the crop’s maturation.

Eight-two percent of this year’s crop is in good or excellent condition.

In Minnesota, 75 percent of wheat is harvested, compared with an average of 42 percent in 2004 to ’09 and only 8 percent in 2009.

Heavy summer rains in parts of northwestern Minnesota, where most of the state’s wheat is raised, had raised concern about how much wheat would be harvested.

But Minnesota wheat generally fared better than expected after the rains, says Dave Torgerson, executive director of the Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers in Red Lake Falls.

Yields, though not great, are attractive in comparison to the 10-year average, he says.

Less low-protein wheat is being harvested this year than a year ago, so wheat producers will be hit with fewer price discounts, he says.

“The comment I’ve heard from a few farmers is, ‘Maybe I should have had a little more wheat this year.’ I think that tells you something,” he says.

Ninety percent of Minnesota wheat was rated good or excellent last week.

Looking at South Dakota, Montana

In South Dakota, the winter wheat harvest is just about wrapped up, which is normal for the middle of August.

Yields and quality vary considerably across the state, but on balance, the crop benefited from good growing conditions, says Randy Englund, executive director of the South Dakota Wheat Commission in Pierre.

“There just wasn’t as much stress as we’ve seen in the past,” he says.

Eighty-one percent of South Dakota spring wheat was harvested as of Aug. 15. That compares with an average of 80 percent from 2004 to ’09 and 63 percent a year ago.

Eight-two percent of the state’s spring wheat was rated good or excellent Aug. 15.

Montana’s wheat crop was helped by plentiful rainfall this summer, Falcon says.

However, recent rains have hindered farmers from harvesting their crops, she says.

Only 38 percent of Montana winter wheat was harvested as of Aug. 15. That compares with an average of 80 percent from 2004 to ’09 and 54 percent a year ago.

Seven percent of Montana spring wheat was harvested as of Aug. 15. That compares with an average of 39 percent from 2004 to ’09 and 4 percent a year ago.

Eighty-one percent of the Montana spring wheat was rated good or excellent.

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