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Published August 12, 2013, 09:34 AM

Cool August raises concern

A recent Agweek trip through Marshall County in northwest Minnesota on a cool August morning found a lot of good-looking crops. The trip also found plenty of signs that crops need more heat.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

NORTHWEST MINNESOTA — Unusually cool weather in early August is great for northwest Minnesota high school football players beginning fall practice, but not so good for crops, Kevin Karel says.

“Our crops look good. But they need heat,” says Karel, merchandiser for MarKit County Grain in Argyle, Minn.

A recent Agweek trip through Marshall County in northwest Minnesota on a cool August morning found a lot of good-looking crops. The trip also found plenty of signs that crops need more heat.

Daily highs for the first seven days of August ranged from 67 to 77 degrees in Warren, Minn., according to statistics from the North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network, which also tracks weather conditions in several western Minnesota farm communities.

“This kind of weather is good for working outside. But it’s not good for crops that need heat,” says Harvey Sedlacek, sales manager for Evergreen Implement in Warren, Minn.

Highs in the 80s are needed for row crops to mature properly and for small gains to ripen fully, Sedlacek and others say.

In general, southern Marshall County is drier than the northern part of the county, people who talked with Agweek say.

In the south, crops need rain quickly. In the north, there’s no immediate need for precipitation, although most fields of row crops will need another shot or two of rain this growing season.

Farmers in Marshall County raise a number of crops. The county ranks first in Minnesota in barley production, second in spring wheat, third in dry edible beans, fourth in sugar beets and 11th in soybeans. It ranks only 68th in corn production, but new, faster-maturing corn varieties and attractive corn prices are encouraging more Marshall County farmers to grow it.

On the day that Agweek visited, fields of small grains were mostly amber, with pockets of green sprinkled throughout. The row crops were lush and vibrantly green.

Here’s a closer look at conditions in Marshall County and what ag folks there told Agweek .

‘Wheat country’

ALVARADO, Minn. — The barley harvest is just beginning in the trade area of Famers Elevator Co. of Alvarado.

Early results are mostly good, says Roger Kazmierczak, a certified crop adviser who works in retails sales for the elevator.

Barley is popular in Marshall County because the crop is a good rotational fit the year before sugar beets, a popular crop in the county, he says.

Most of the barley in Marshall County is the malt variety and sold under contract.

The Alvarado elevator, which currently has about 1½ million bushels of grain storage, is adding another 400,000 bushels of storage. The additional storage, expected to be ready for the 2014 harvest, is in response to the increasing amount of corn grown by the elevator’s patrons.

Kazmierczak, an agricultural veteran who’s nearing retirement, says he understands why the elevator’s patrons are planting more corn.

But he also thinks wheat will continue to play an important role.

“I still think this is wheat country,” he says.

Rain would be great

WARREN, Minn. — Farmers in the Warren area won’t enjoy many years as much as 2012, Sedlacek says.

“Good crop, good prices, early harvest for the most part,” he says.

This year might fall short of 2012, but the 2013 crop year is promising nonetheless, he says.

Cool August weather is a concern, however, Sedlacek says.

Warmer weather is needed to help crops develop properly, and many fields need rain, he says.

“An inch and a half (of precipitation) with temperatures around 85 would be wonderful,” he says.

Corn is becoming increasingly common in Marshall County, causing his company to sell more corn equipment, he says.

Late harvest ahead?

ARGYLE — Kevin Karel doesn’t want farmers in his trade area to be harvesting corn in December.

A late harvest is all too possible if August temperatures don’t rise high enough to push the corn, Karel says.

Mar-Kit County grain, which began handling grain in 2006, is owned by several local cooperates and is affiliated with Archer Daniels Midland.

Farmers in much of the elevator’s trade area have enough moisture for now, he says.

An extended rainy period would seriously complicate the small grain harvest, which should begin shortly.

“We don’t want some cloud hanging over us that keeps dumping rain,” Karel says.