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Published September 07, 2010, 09:48 PM

Rains stall harvest progress

Heavy, even record rains in the heart of the Red River Valley over Labor Day put harvest into a holding pattern that will last most of this week for much of the region and made some gravel roads impassable Tuesday.

By: Stephen J. Lee, Grand Forks Herald

Heavy, even record rains in the heart of the Red River Valley over Labor Day put harvest into a holding pattern that will last most of this week for much of the region and made some gravel roads impassable Tuesday.

Meanwhile, in the northern Valley, combines were rolling in western Walsh County, near Park River, N.D., where little or no rain fell, farmers said.

Record rain for Sept. 6 fell in Fargo (1.99 inches), Bismarck (2.12 inches), Minot (1.64 inch) and Dickinson, N.D., (0.8 inch).

Even larger amounts fell in several locations Monday through Tuesday morning, including a total of 3.22 inches near Marion, N.D., south of Valley City; about 2.7 inches southwest of Fargo, 2.4 inches in Mayville, N.D., and nearby Hatton. Grand Forks recorded 1.6 inches and 1 inch was reported west of Oslo, Minn., in southeast Walsh County, according to the National Weather Service office in Grand Forks.

On the Minnesota side of the Red River, Halstad received 2.14 inches, Climax 1.88 inches, Bemidji 1.74, Red Lake Falls 1.21 and Thief River Falls 1.07.

But the far north end of the Valley got little or no rain. Which is good in many cases: Cavalier, N.D., received 3.5 inches of rain last week and needs no more.

Perhaps the only “dry” area in the eastern half of North Dakota is the Carrington area, which was about 4 inches below normal precipitation before the Labor Day rains.

“We got 2 inches across Steele County is what I have been hearing,” said Andy Johnson, ag extension agent in Finley, N.D. “We’ve got some pretty good puddles out there again, standing in fields. We were working on the dry edible bean harvest for the last couple of weeks, so that is pretty much going to be at a stand-still now for a week or so.”

“We had another inch and a half last night, on top of the water standing in the fields,” said Jim Stordahl, ag extension agent for Polk County. It’s enough to knock off harvest for this week, he said.

“The rainfall this summer has really been a mixed blessing” he said. “It has brought what appears to be good yields, but it’s created a lot of harvest issues.”

Much of the post-harvest fieldwork hasn’t been possible because of wet fields and even the combines left big ruts, he said.

The rain is too late to help dry edible beans and soybeans now, and is more likely to hurt the crops before they can be harvested, Stordahl said.

The corn crop, however, already looking very good, might even use some of the recent rains.

In Steele County, 55 percent of its crop acres last year were planted to soybeans and dry edible beans and that measure is even more this year as less wheat and corn were planted, Johnson said. Dry bean yields have been running well, average and above.

The soybeans, still about two weeks from harvest, look to be above average, if the weather doesn’t hurt them or the harvest process, Johnson said.

The spring wheat harvest in the Red River Valley is complete, but for a percent or two of the crop. But across North Dakota, 20 percent of the crop remained in the field by Sunday, slightly behind normal for the date, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s weekly survey of county extension agents.

The spring wheat in Steele County ran 50 to 60 bushels an acre, Johnson said.

“I would call to that average to above average for Steele County, not quite as good as last year,” Johnson said. “Protein was kind of low again this year but better than last year.”

Wheat yields in Polk County ranged from 45 to 65 bushels an acre, which is average to somewhat above average, Stordahl said. Protein levels are not high, but are better than last year.

Corn is ahead of schedule for maturing in Minnesota and North Dakota, with 85 percent and 77 percent of the kernels dented, respectively, well ahead of the five-year average for Sunday.

Soybeans are about on a normal pace of maturation, with 12 percent of Minnesota’s crop shedding leaves and 18 percent of North Dakota’s.

The dry edible bean harvest was just kicking into high gear late last week before the rains hit, with 13 percent of the crop harvested in North Dakota and 14 percent in Minnesota, ahead of normal for Sept. 6.

Only 8 percent of the potatoes were dug in North Dakota last week, up only 1 percent from the previous week and right on the five-year average for the date; nearly a third of Minnesota’s spuds are dug, also about a normal pace.

The sugar beet harvest appeared halted in its pre-pile phase Tuesday, too.

A wet year

At the Grand Forks International Airport, 20.45 inches of precipitation had fallen by Tuesday for the year, 5.53 inches above the 30-year norm for the period.

Moorhead has gotten 2 inches more than normal and Crookston 1.44 inches more since April 1.

Water was standing in ditches and crop rows Tuesday up and down the Valley.

The bad news is that heavy rains again are forecast for the region later Thursday into Friday.

“The big story right now is the chronic wetness and how it’s going to create problems with the harvest,” Stordahl said.

Reach Lee at (701) 780-1237; (800) 477-6572, ext. 237; or send e-mail to