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Published July 07, 2014, 09:28 AM

Prevented-plant numbers not yet accumulated

Crops in the region have benefitted from moisture, but some areas are suffering from too much, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service weekly report on June 30. The Farm Service Agency won’t accumulate prevented-plant figures until late July.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

Crops in the region have benefitted from moisture, but some areas are suffering from too much, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service weekly report on June 30. The Farm Service Agency won’t accumulate prevented-plant figures until late July.

Cool, wet weather in the western half of North Dakota slowed field work, with 3- to 6-inch rains in the northwest. There were 3.7 days suitable for field work the week ending June 27. Excessive moisture has made herbicide application and hay cutting difficult. Crops are generally looking good, with corn, soybeans and wheat all rated 80 percent good to excellent, or better. Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels are both rated nearly 100 percent adequate to surplus. Crops with significant ratings of poor or worse included: winter wheat, 15 percent; potatoes, 16 percent.

In South Dakota, cool temperatures and rain similarly reduced field-suitable days to 3.8. Spring wheat was 74 percent rated good to excellent. Corn is rated 79 percent good to excellent and 2 percent was silking, which is about average. Soybeans are 74 percent good to excellent and 15 percent were blooming, ahead of the 7 percent average for this date. About 85 percent of the sunflowers had been planted, behind the average of 93 percent and 57 percent had emerged. Alfalfa first cutting was 65 percent complete, behind the average of 74 percent for the date.

Minnesotans are seeing crop stress and delayed alfalfa cutting. Crop conditions declined for all crops because of excessive moisture and standing water. Fertilizer and chemical applications were delayed during the week ending June 27, with 2.7 days suitable for field work. Topsoil moisture is 100 percent adequate to surplus. Corn was 97 percent emerged and 65 percent in good to excellent condition. Soybeans are 95 percent emerged and rated 59 percent good to excellent. Both corn and soybeans are rated 10 percent poor or worse. Only 67 percent of the alfalfa crop had seen its first cutting, compared with the average of 86 percent for this date. Sugar beets were reported 11 percent very poor and 34 percent poor — the worst conditions for any crop.

Montana pasture conditions improved, but remain below the five-year average, with 56 percent good to excellent. Crops rated good to excellent included: barley, 52 percent; dry peas, 64 percent; durum, 70 percent; spring wheat, 58 percent; and winter wheat, 63 percent.

Water and salt

Larry Laney, 37, farms south of Verona, N.D., and was still planting barley on June 24, but it was getting late. He’s stopped counting the 1- and 2-inch rains that have come heavy and hard.

Laney has a 4,400-acre farm but “if you take the salt and the water off, I’m down to about 3,500 — right in there,” he says. Laney says 600 acres will succumb to prevented-plant coverage this year because of excess water. Another 600 acres are salt edges and will be planted to rye pathways or to barley.

Excessive water has been taking a few of his acres every year since the mid-1990s. “It just doesn’t quit,” Laney says. “It’s getting extreme.”

Agronomists tell Laney the only choices for a solution are field drainage tiling or no rain. Tiling possibilities are limited, however, both because of soil conservation rules preventing draining of wetlands sending salty water downstream and because it isn’t practical in pothole country.

“There aren’t many places to put the water unless you’re next to a creek,” he says, but points out where some neighbors are able to do it.

“You need to be dry, and then you flush it with rain,” he says of the salt that works out of the sloughs.

Last year, Laney planted barley on some of his salt soils and sold it for malting. It yielded 20 bushels per acre — better than nothing.

“The killer is that my father owns all of the land. I’m paying rent on this land, and if I have 10 to 30 percent, what do you do? That’s where me and Dad are struggling on what to do next. You can’t get into CRP because there’s no money in that.”

Green and growing

Lyle Fey, store manager of Green Iron Equipment in Ashley, N.D., says 2014 is starting off promising for farmers in his area.

Green Iron Equipment is owned by a group of farmer-businessmen in the Fullerton, N.D., area. It is the southwest anchor in a chain that includes LaMoure, Ellendale, Milnor and Napoleon in North Dakota, and Britton, S.D.

“The beef industry has been very good, so we’ve seen some benefits from that — haying equipment, loader-tractors,” Fey says.

Larger equipment sales have been sluggish because corn prices have come down from their highs of the past few years. Section 179, a tax provision that allows tax benefits for new equipment, is pending in Congress.

“If that gets back, it’ll be huge.”

Larger combines, and four-wheel- drive tractors and planter sales have been sluggish. “Those owners, if they’re primarily in the row crop business, if you have $3.50 corn, that’s not going to make it — not with the input costs,” says Fey, who also is in the farming business.

The crops in the Ashley area look “fantastic” for this time of year, he says. They’ve had good rain so far, but that part of the state is always three weeks from a drought.

“Once the winds and the rain quit, it doesn’t take long. The soil is lighter here and things dry up faster,” Fey says.