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Published June 02, 2011, 03:06 PM

Delayed planting could lower yields, push back harvest

A wet spring and muddy fields have slowed planting for farmers in the Red River Valley and beyond. Last weekend’s rainstorms could make matters even worse, as later plantings could lead to lower yields and a delayed harvest.

By: Ryan Schuster, Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald

A wet spring and muddy fields have slowed planting for farmers in the Red River Valley and beyond. Last weekend’s rainstorms could make matters even worse, as later plantings could lead to lower yields and a delayed harvest.

Only 55 percent of North Dakota’s spring wheat crop had been planted as of Sunday, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics.

Joe Ransom, an agronomist with the NDSU Extension Service, said only 48 percent of the spring wheat crop has been planted in northeast North Dakota. Ransom said typically 95 percent of the spring wheat crop would have been planted statewide by now.

“We have a lot of acres left to plant,” said Ransom, who specializes in cereal crops. “With the additional rain, it looks like we will have another week delay in planting in most of the state.”

About 92 percent of Minnesota’s spring wheat crop had been planted by Sunday.

Through last week, 88 percent of this year’s sugar beet crop had been planted in North Dakota and 90 percent of the crop had been planted in Minnesota, according to the USDA.

Planting by American Crystal Sugar Co. cooperative members in northwest Minnesota and eastern North Dakota is roughly 90 percent complete, according to spokesperson Jeff Schweitzer.

Last year, the cooperative completed planting by May 1, a few weeks earlier than usual.

“Weather has become the biggest obstacle to getting a crop in the field,” Schweitzer said.

Schweitzer said American Crystal’s Crookston factory district had about 98 percent of its crop planted with the East Grand Forks district at about 93 percent. The North Dakota factory districts of Hillsboro (90 percent) and Drayton (84 percent) are further behind.

North Dakota corn growers had planted 74 percent of their crop by Sunday — down from 92 percent at the same time a year earlier, according to USDA. Minnesota producers had planted 88 percent of their corn through last week. A year ago at this time they had already finished planting.

In the next week, many farmers will decide whether to plant late or take advantage of insurance policies covering unplanted acres, Ransom said.

He said as a general rule of thumb, small grains crops experience a 1 percent to 1.5 percent reduction in yield for every day delay past the optimum planting day.

“The stuff that has already been planted is going to be in pretty good shape,” Ransom said. “The stuff that hasn’t been planted will take a hit in yield and delayed harvesting.”

American Crystal’s board recently authorized the planting of upward of 458,000 acres in 2011 (up from 425,000 acres planned in March) to help compensate for potentially lower yields caused by this year’s later than normal planting.

Summer weather will play a big role in determining yield levels and exact harvest times.

“We’ll see what Mother Nature brings,” Schweitzer said. “We haven’t got the crop fully planted yet. We’ll have to see what happens with our yield.”

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