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Published April 28, 2014, 10:54 AM

West-central ND would welcome dry, warm weather

WEST-CENTRAL NORTH DAKOTA — Steve Plesuk peers at the weather forecast on the computer screen. Plesuk, manager of the CHS-SunPrairie Grain location in Velva, N.D., points to the predictions and says, “See that? That’s not what we’re hoping for.”

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

WEST-CENTRAL NORTH DAKOTA — Steve Plesuk peers at the weather forecast on the computer screen. Plesuk, manager of the CHS-SunPrairie Grain location in Velva, N.D., points to the predictions and says, “See that? That’s not what we’re hoping for.”

The forecast, for cool and wet weather in late April, will hamper planting in the Velva area, and elsewhere in west-central North Dakota. The predictions were particularly frustrating because earlier forecasts had called for favorable planting weather late in the month.

An Agweek trip through McHenry and McLean counties on April 23 found that producers were waiting to start planting. Though a few had applied fertilizer, most still needed their fields to be warm and dry. That didn’t happen on the wet, windy day that Agweek visited.

There’s no worry or desperation, agriculturalists say. Planting in the area normally doesn’t begin in earnest until early May.

But farmers hope to avoid a repeat of the exceptionally wet spring in 2013, which delayed planting dangerously late and kept some fields from being planted altogether. The quick arrival of warm, dry weather this spring would reduce the odds of that happening again.

Warmer, drier conditions also would benefit ranchers, who are in the midst of calving. Cattle are important in both counties, particularly McHenry, which ranks among the top cattle producing counties in North Dakota.

Here’s a look at what agriculturalists in the area had to say.

‘Nice to get going’

NORWICH, N.D. — Tim Krout has seen both late spring and early spring in his two decades with Dakota Midland Grain. On the day of Agweek’s visit, Krout was manning the grain company’s barley-flax-canola location in Norwich, a small unincorporated farm town just north of U.S. Highway 2.

He’s not worried about the lack of planting progress this spring.

“Around here, we usually don’t get started until early May,” he says. Even so, “We’d like some better weather. It would be nice to get going.”

More moisture isn’t needed this spring, even though the Norwich area missed out on heavy snows over winter.

“We went into winter pretty wet. We’re OK on moisture,” he says.

Many crops, including corn and soybeans, are grown in the Norwich area. Soybeans and corn, once grown only farther south and east in North Dakota, have come to west-central North Dakota, too.

“There’s just a lot more corn and soybeans,” Krout says.

In McHenry County, 62,000 acres of corn and 47,100 acres of soybeans were planted in 2012, up from 34,200 acres of corn and 10,500 acres of soybeans in 2008, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

75 degrees and dry

VELVA, N.D. — About two-tenths of an inch of rain had fallen when Agweek stopped at CHS-SunPrairie Grain in Velva. The town of 1,000 along the Mouse River bills itself as “the Star City of the Prairie.”

The precipitation wasn’t needed because of the area’s wet fall. But it will cause further delays in the start of planting, Plesuk says.

“It’s not late for us. We’re still OK.”

But forecasts calling for cold, wet winter into late April aren’t encourarging. Ideally, late April and early May would be dry and warm, with highs reaching the mid 70s, he says.

Those conditions also would benefit ranchers. Cattle are common in the Velva area. One sign of that: the CHS-SunPrairie Grain location in Velva sells ear tags and vaccines, among other cattle-related products.

Calving generally has gone well this year. But a prolonged cold, wet stretch would put calves at greater risk, Plesuk says.

‘Close to normal’

BENEDICT, N.D. — Bruce Marchand, location manager for McLean Elevator Co., in Benedict, takes the wet, windy day in stride.

Planting in the area around Benedict, a town of 66 in McLean County, hasn’t started yet, and won’t begin for at least a few more days.

Marchand says that hasn’t caused much, if any, concern, so far.

“We’re close to normal. There’s still time,” he says.

Last spring was difficult for many producers, given wet planting conditions, he says.

“We’re all hoping this spring will be better,” he says.

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