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Published October 12, 2010, 10:09 AM

Region’s farmers make use of October’s heat, sun, wind

At last! A string of harvest days worthy of greeting card imagery is helping the region’s farmers to a happier harvest than what September seemed to portend.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

At last! A string of harvest days worthy of greeting card imagery is helping the region’s farmers to a happier harvest than what September seemed to portend.

Starting the last week of September, much of the four-state area has gotten a break — high pressure, sunny skies, temperatures in the 70s and winds needed to dry out soils that had been sodden by September rains.

Here are a few Crop Stop visits, accumulated on recent trips into eastern South Dakota and central North Dakota, followed by National Agricultural Statistics Service most recent crop and weather summary for each of the four states.

Crop Stops

- MEDINA, N.D.: Craig Reister farms with his wife, Michal. They have seven children at home on the place south of Medina on North Dakota Highway 30. The Reisters sold the dairy herd about a year ago and expanded into stock cows.

“We sell a lot of at beef — sell ’em off the farm,” Reister says.

The cows are black Simmental.

Craig does some federal crop insurance adjusting. His son, Jeremy, who farms separately and works in an uncle’s meat business, helps put up hay.

“We seed about 200 acres of corn and about 100 acres of wheat,” Reister says. “We put up about 45 acres as silage, and the rest is grain corn for the fats. We feed the fats and then sell it if we have some extra.”

Yieldwise, the corn did “unbelievably good,” at 12 to 15 tons per acre. The corn grain will do 100 bushels an acre, he says. The wheat averaged 48.1 bushels an acre and 61 pounds per bushel test weight. Protein, at 12 percent, was a little low.

Reister has about 125 acres of corn left to go. It was testing at 21 percent moisture Oct. 5, so he figures he’ll wait a few days.

“That’s about all we’ve got left is the corn,” he says.

- JAMESTOWN, N.D.: Mitch Wanzek, 25, was cut-ting soybeans the other day, accompanied in the cab by his cousin, Ross Waleri, also of Jamestown. He’d harvested 500 acres of soybeans, running about 40 bushels per acre as of Oct. 1. The Wanzeks have done another 600 acres since then, with about the same results, give or take. He farms with his father, Randy, and uncle, Ron, south of the village of Windsor, N.D.

The farm has about 2,300 acres of soybeans and about 1,400 acres of corn. The corn looks really good and should average 120 to 130 bushels per acre, assuming the harvest goes well. Mitch lives on the home farm where his grandfather started in the 1950s. Mitch graduated from Jamestown College in business in 2008 and is engaged to be married next June.

The Wanzek family harvested spring wheat in early August. That was very good at 60 bushels per acre, with an average protein of about 14 percent and a test weight of about 60 pounds per bushel.

“Really good,” Wanzek says. His father and uncle have a cow-calf cattle program, and the cattle so far have been able to stay out on pasture.

Generally, the year has been “real good, with good rains — maybe a little too much rain at times, but we never turn away rain.” Soon after the soybeans, the family will look at applying fertilizer.

Says Wanzek: “We’ll see how time goes.”

- RUTLAND, S.D. : Tim Leighton farms near Rutland, where he raises corn and soybeans silty clay loam soils — some places heavy, some lighter. He farms with his son, Adam, and runs the bean harvest with a brother-in-law. His son, Aaron, also helps after a job in town.

Only a few farmers in Leighton’s neighborhood had been harvesting soybeans at the time of the Agweek stop, but activity accelerated considerably the first week of October.

“Everybody’s getting a lot done now,” Leighton says.

Soybean yields are running in the 50-bushels-per-acre range, but little is known about the corn.

“With this wind and sunshine, it should be drying down good,” he says.

The season has had its ups and downs.

“We got it in on the early order,” Leighton says, and the corn was planted in places where it hadn’t been planted in three or four years. The soybeans were half planted when it started to rain.

“It looked good till spraying time,” he says. “Since mid-June, it never stopped.”

Actually, it did stop enough to help get the spraying done.

“We had to do some of it with an airplane, and some with a helicopter, but we got it done,” he says.

“Things were looking really good until about Sept. 22, when they got another 5½ inches of rain on top of waterlogged soil.”

He started harvesting soybeans Sept. 29.

“We’ve been getting stuck in the mud a lot. There are some tremendous long lines at the elevators. Everything got backed up, and everybody’s going when they can and where they can,” he says.

He thinks in the next week they can get anything where there’s crop growing, but it’s hard to say what he’ll find when he starts getting after the corn.

“I’m sure it’ll be like the bean ground, soft and really wet,” he says.

- BALTIC, S.D.: Bill Boadwine is in a dairy operation on a 100-year-old farm that’s been in his wife’s family since 1874. Today, Bill and his son, Lynn, run the farm and Lynn is involved in a second operation near Sherman, S.D.

Bill has been in management on this place since about 1961. Boadwine Farms Inc. has built the place up to 1,700 cows, milked three times a day. Their milk goes to Land O’Lakes cheese plant in Lake Norden, S.D.

Bill says 2010 has been a pretty good year, so far. On the farming side, the Boadwines raise corn and alfalfa.

“A lot of corn-on-corn,” he says. “More corn than alfalfa.”

They’d already put up 800 acres of corn for silage at the turn of the month. The silage yielded 22 tons an acre this year, which was good but “not any better than last year,” Bill says. “The quality is better than last year. The corn has matured-out better.”

Since then, they’ve put high-moisture corn into bunkers. They just started corn for grain the week of Oct. 4 and probably came in on where the test strips for insurance indicated 150 to 200 bushels per acre. which is about what they got in 2009.

“We don’t always get that,” Bill says. Things seem to be maturing about two weeks ahead of normal, he says. He says there’s a lot of drown-out spots and areas that have to be maneuvered around for now.

This year’s alfalfa crop is doing well, too — four cuttings on everything had been completed so far and five cuttings on some of the older alfalfa.

“We usually take four. We cut early and we cut every 30 days,” he says. “We’ve had good yields.”

The other day, Boadwine was cutting his lawn while one of the dairy employees was applying dairy manure to a field next door.

“We haven’t had as much rain as some have to the south,” he says. “But when we’ve had it, it’s come hard. It seems like about every week it rained; I mowed my lawn every week, and that’s the first year for a long time that I haven’t had a brown lawn sometime during the summer.”

Most of what the Boadwines produce in crops is run through the cattle. They buy some high-moisture corn and buy some standing corn from neighbors to make into silage.

“We rarely buy anything from the elevator. The neighbors we deal with often get our manure. They pay us something — mostly the cost of putting it on. For corn, this manure is about exactly what we need.”

Dairying, of course, has been a tough proposition in the past two years, with low milk prices and high feed costs. The milk price has improved now and is around the break-even level, Boadwine says.

“It seems to be kind of stable,” he says. “It’s not going up, but the price of corn is going up. That’s not a good situation for us, I guess.”

Crops and weather

Here are state-by-state crop reports for the four-state area, as of Oct. 3, as reported by the NASS offices in North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota and Montana:

n NORTH DAKOTA: Harvest completion percentages and progress, compared with the previous week and five-year averages, include durum — 89 percent harvested, 75 last week, 98 percent average (lowest, 87 percent, northwest). Spring wheat — 97 harvested, 92 last week, 99 average (lowest, 94 percent, northwest and northeast). Canola — 95 percent harvested, 83 last week, 98 average (lowest 90 percent, northeast). Corn — 89 percent mature, 71 last week, 70 average; 2 percent harvested, zero last week, 4 percent average.

Corn for silage — 72 percent chopped, 44 percent last week, 77 average. Dry edible beans — 75 percent cut, 58 percent last week, 81 percent average; 65 percent harvested, 45 last week, 67 average. Flaxseed — 79 percent harvested, 61 last week, 92 average (lowest, 40 percent, northeast). Potatoes — 95 percent vines killed, 86 last week, 95 average; 65 percent dug, 51 last week, 72 average. Soybeans — 28 percent harvested, 3 last week, 40 average (lowest, 22 percent, central). Sugar beets — 37 percent harvested, 15 last week, 25 percent average. Sunflowers — 65 percent bracts turned brown, 41 last week, 76 average; 1 percent harvested, zero last week, 4 average.

Crop condition in the “good to excellent” categories: corn, 83 percent, 83 last week; soybeans, 86 percent, 84 last week; sugar beets, 89 percent, 87 last week; sunflowers, 69 percent, 73 last week; and pasture and range, 68 percent, 70 last week.

Soil moisture percentages are surplus in much of eastern North Dakota, in an area running from Bottineau to Devils Lake, west of Grand Forks, to Jamestown and southeast North Dakota.

n MINNESOTA: Fields are drying rapidly and fieldwork resumed, according to the report. Topsoil supplies are 100 percent adequate or surplus, with 47 percent of the state surplus.

Harvest completion percentages and progress, compared with the previous week and the five-year average:

Corn — 92 percent mature, 79 last week, 74 average; 4 percent harvested, 2 last week, 6 average. Corn for silage, 97 percent harvested, 92 last week, 90 average; corn moisture content is averaging 22 percent, compared with 28 percent last year and 25 percent for the five-year average at this date.

Soybeans — 88 percent mature, 63 last week, 83 average; 29 percent harvested, 6 last week, 36 average; 13 moisture content, 13 last year, 13 average. Potatoes — 76 percent this week, 62 last week, 73 average; Dry beans — 85 harvested, 65 last week, 79 average. Sunflowers — 22 percent harvested, 12 last week, 8 average. Sugar beets — 34 percent harvested, 16 last week, 24 average.

Crop condition percentages in the good to excellent categories included pasture, 75 percent, 77 last week, sugar beets, 91 percent, 90 last week; corn, 86 percent, 85 last week; soybeans, 84 percent, 81 last week; and sunflowers, 74 percent, 73 last week.

n SOUTH DAKOTA: Topsoil moisture conditions are adequate to surplus in 83 percent of the state, compared with 84 percent last week. Subsoil moisture is 81 percent adequate or surplus. The entire eastern third of the state is 5 to 7 inches of rain ahead of long-term averages, since April 1.

Crop progress: Winter wheat — 76 percent seeded, 61 last week, 79 average; 44 emerged, 27 last week, 41 average. Corn — 84 percent mature, 67 last week, 76 average; grain harvested, 7 this week, 2 last week, 10 average; silage harvested, 91 percent, 83 last week, 88. Soybeans — 99 percent dropping leaves, 84 last week, 97 average; 88 percent mature, 48 last week, 74 average; 25 percent harvested, 3 last week, 26 average. Sorghum — 11 percent harvested, 2 last week, 18 average. Sunflowers — 49 percent mature, 29 last week, 42 average; and alfalfa, 90 percent third cutting, 86 last week, 88 average.

Crop condition percentages in the “good to excellent” categories included: corn, 73 percent; soybean, 69 percent; sorghum, 75 percent; sunflowers, 62 percent; alfalfa, 69 percent; cattle, 90 percent; sheep, 88 percent; and range and pasture, 65 percent.

n MONTANA: Topsoil moisture is 87 percent adequate to surplus, down from 92 percent the previous week, but far ahead of the 51 percent average for this date. Subsoil moisture is 85 percent good to excellent, down from 85 percent last week, but ahead of the 32 percent for the date.

Harvest progress percentages, compared with last year and average: Barley — 81 percent, 73 last week, 98 average. Corn for grain — 5 percent harvested, 6 average. Dry beans — 70 percent harvested, 57 last week, 86 average. Lentils — 98 percent harvested, 94 last week, 99 average. Mustard seed — 78 percent harvested, 75 last week, 99 average. Oats — 94 percent harvested, 82 last week, 100 average. Durum wheat — 83 percent harvested, 59 last week, 96 average. Spring wheat — 81 percent harvested, 65 last week, 99 average. Sugar beets — 21 percent harvested, 9 last week, 8 average.

Crop condition percentages in the “good to excellent” categories include corn, 78 percent, same as last week; and sugar beets, 73 percent, same as last week.