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Published September 09, 2013, 09:36 AM

Good wheat, thirsty beans in central ND

According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service report released Sept. 3, North Dakota farmers got varying rain and had temperatures 6 to 8 degrees above normal.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service report released Sept. 3, North Dakota farmers got varying rain and had temperatures 6 to 8 degrees above normal. Some 51 percent of the state is short or very short of topsoil.

About 53 percent of the state’s wheat was harvested, which is behind the 99 percent from 2012, but closing in on the average of 68 percent for the date. It was 76 percent excellent in condition.

Soybeans were 23 percent in poor or very poor condition and 39 percent good to excellent, with 16 percent dropping leaves, which is slightly ahead of average. About 71 percent of the state’s corn has reached the dough stage, about average, but behind last year’s drought-affected pace. Only 21 percent of the corn was in poor or very poor condition and 41 percent was in good to excellent condition, the report says.

Here is what Agweek found in recent stops in central North Dakota.

Taking over the rotation

DAZEY, N.D. — Eric Broten and his father, Jim Broten, raise barley, soybeans and corn on their farm with headquarters in the Cooperstown, N.D., area.

“It’s the first year ever with no wheat on the farm,” Eric says. “Corn and beans are kind of taking over the rotation.”

The farm finished harvesting barley in the third week of August. Quality seemed decent. Some of the crop north of Hannaford, N.D., was dry and quality wasn’t quite as good.

“As you got into more moisture, the yields went up and the quality went up,” he says.

The Broten farm got an inch of rain Aug. 13, but little after that.

Barley ranged from 60 bushels per acre to the mid-80-bushel range for field averages across the farm. All of it was “Tradition” barley variety this year. The early crop was really dry and had low test weight, with a fair amount of thin barley.

“That all just missed the rains,” Broten says. “As we got farther to the north and farther to the south there was better rain and the quality went back up — test weight was good, and protein. There should be no (vomitoxin).”

Corn had great potential if it can fill, but needs rain and heat. Cob size and kernel numbers around the cobs showed potential for an average crop, but is slipping in the first week of September.

“We’re worried the corn will be there, but the early frost will cut the test weight and we’ll be combining 45-pound corn,” he says. Development was a “month-plus” behind last year, he thinks. Everything pollinated pretty well, but the fill was taking its time, he says.

Soybeans were suffering, especially on lighter soils. “Where they have caught moisture, there’s good beans,” but without rains the crop will be “fairly poor.”

The Brotens also irrigate some crops, using four pivots.

“We go heavy on corn on the pivots,” Broten says. “We could have used some more heat, but the potential looks really good under irrigation. If we can keep this heat going, that’ll keep filling nicely.”

The Broten farm looks for 180- to 200-bushel corn under irrigation.

Dearth of organic buckwheat

CARRINGTON, N.D. — Chuck Vandehoven is the manager of the Reimers Seed Co., which processes and cleans organic products — flax and buckwheat.

“By the sounds of it, yields are going to be way down,” Vandehoven says. “There’s not much buckwheat grown anymore, for this year.” The drought had an impact, especially in the higher production areas of the Tappen, Steele and Robinson areas, as well as to the west and south.

In a great year, organic flax production will hit about 30 bushels per acre, but this year he’s seeing six to eight bushels per acre. “That’s sand ground over there, and so a little moisture doesn’t stay like it does in the heavy soil,” he says. He hasn’t heard of any organic buckwheat being seeded at all in the region this year.

The company will stay busy cleaning flax — conventional and organic, Vandehoven says.

Otherwise, local farmers took off some 45-bushel wheat in the area on nonirrigated land. “Nice quality wheat,” he says. In the past few years, farmers had been getting 75- to 80-bushel wheat, he says. There are very few sunflowers, and soybean producers thought that without rain, soon there will be average yields on some fields, poor on others. Corn looks good in the area, and farmers are hoping for 100-plus bushels per acre if they don’t get an early frost.

One notable thing: Vandehoven says it’s been a bumper year for cucumbers in his area, and he has a couple of them on his desk. He says he’s been amazed that he could measure cucumbers at 2-inches one day and by the next day the same fruits were 6 inches long or better, he says.

“Unreal,” Vandehoven says. “It’s not a big patch and I was picking five gallon buckets a day. We made pickles and gave a bunch of them away.”

Our turn

FESSENDEN, N.D. — Mitch Lloyd is a seed and chemical dealer at Lloyd Crop Management Inc. in Fessenden, N.D. Lloyd operates in a 15-mile radius, and advises about 80 farmers. Wheat, corn, pinto beans, soybeans and some winter wheat and barley are his main crops. The area historically has had more moisture than surrounding areas, but not this year.

North of Fessenden was drier and Lloyd got a good share of the crop planted by May 16. Farmers south and west of Fessenden have a higher water table.

“There was considerable prevent-plant — anywhere from 10 percent to 70 percent in that area,” he says.

orth of Fessenden, farmers stuck with more small grains. South of town, it was late May by the time they got back into the fields. Most planned to raise wheat, but instead got in with pintos, corn and soybeans where they could.

“Planting continued well into June 18 to June 20,” Lloyd says. “That was kind of a common ending date.” The ending date for crop insurance was June 10 for all of the beans. Some chose to quit, but others continued after the deadline.

Small grain yields ran a little better than last year — in the 50s and 60s for wheat — which lately has become a normal average for the area. Lloyd thinks much of the wheat had gone 50 to 60 bushels per acre.

“Some is going to bump maybe to 70, but I assume as the weeks go by, we’ll see fields that don’t make 40 bushels,” he says. About 10 to 20 percent of the wheat had been harvested by Aug. 21 and was about 70 percent done by Sept. 3. He’d heard farmers were getting good test weight.

Beans in the area are looking thirsty.

“It’s getting pretty critical,” Lloyd says. Much of the area had received 1 to 1.5 inches of rain in much of July and August. About 0.6 to 0.8 inches of rain came in one storm the last week of August.

“The crop was doing well, as long as the plants were vertically extending, to the tasseling stage on corn,” he says. “The roots can still go down during that phase, but once the plants are done growing vertically up, there’s not much more vertical rooting going down. We’ve been living on subsoil moisture for two months. The cooler temperatures earlier kind of extended the moisture we did have in the soil, but it also delayed the maturity.”

The crop has been affected by late planting and a cool early season.

“We knew a month ago we had to get wet, get warm, and try to be fortunate enough for a late frost,” he says. “Now we don’t have much time to get wet anymore — it’s just hope for warmth and a later frost. Our turn came up.”

Getting into wheat

CHASELEY, N.D. — Robert and Jeff Kleinsasser and their father, Russell, operate Kleinsasser Farms near Chaseley, N.D. They just started spring wheat harvest on Aug. 2 and were about three-fourths finished on Sept. 3.

The spring wheat was running “better than expected” at 50 to 60 bushels per acre. He hadn’t tested it for quality, but he said it looked like “nice, heavy wheat.”

In the last week of August, the Kleinsassers had picked up a single rain that brought 0.4 to 0.6 inches on parts of their farm.

“It can’t hurt; it’s better than not having it,” Robert says.

Both the soybeans and the corn were looking pretty good on heavier soil, but kind of sad on the sandy land.

The Kleinsassers also raise yearling cattle. Robert says the family has seen a good crop of prairie hay, so that part of the operation has been looking good.