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Published July 14, 2014, 09:39 AM

Planted fields fare well with ample rainfall

FARGO, N.D. — Crops in the region are staying on target for progress, with condition reports looking healthy as a result of rains with relatively cool temperatures and moist soils.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

FARGO, N.D. — Crops in the region are staying on target for progress, with condition reports looking healthy as a result of rains with relatively cool temperatures and moist soils.

South Dakota farmers had suitable fieldwork for 5.8 days the week ending July 4, with 94 percent of the state in topsoil moisture conditions of adequate to surplus.

Rains in South Dakota have varied considerably, with 1 inch in the past month in some areas of the southeast and 8 to 9 inches in some parts of the northwest. Winter wheat was 2 percent mature, behind the five-year average of 18 percent for this date, and condition is 72 percent good to excellent. Spring wheat was 81 percent good to excellent, just below the 83 percent average. Good to excellent ratings for other crops include: barley, 78 percent; soybeans, 76 percent; sorghum, 92 percent; alfalfa, 77 percent; pasture and range, 84 percent.

North Dakota farmers had five days of fieldwork, with topsoil moisture now adequate or surplus in 98 percent of the state. The state has gotten 5 inches of rain in the past month in the Red River Valley and 2 to 4 inches in much of the rest. Durum was 9 percent headed, compared with the 26 percent headed. Condition is 87 percent good to excellent. Spring wheat is 35 percent average, a bit behind average, but with 83 percent good to excellent ratings. Other crops rating in good to excellent categories include: canola, 83 percent; dry edible beans, 78 percent; potatoes, 61 percent; corn, 80 percent; soybeans, 80 percent; sunflowers, 84 percent; sugar beets, 62 percent; alfalfa, 90 percent.

Wet in Minn.

Minnesota had 4.7 days suitable for field work and crops look good with much of the state picking up 5 to 6 inches of rain since June 9. Topsoil is 70 percent adequate and 30 percent surplus — about the same as for subsoil moisture. Nearly all of the corn had emerged with 64 percent in good to excellent condition. Thirteen percent of the soybeans were blooming — 5 percent behind the average. Soybeans are rated 61 percent good to excellent. Spring wheat is heading, but 11 percent behind the average, with 50 percent of the crop in good to excellent condition. Other crop ratings in the good to excellent categories include: potatoes, 78 percent; dry edible beans, 50 percent; sugar beets, 20 percent. About 42 percent of the beets were in poor to very poor condition.

Montanans reported their first week of hot, dry weather with 6.4 days suitable for field work. Range and pasture conditions were slightly below last year and the five-year average with 55 percent rated good to excellent. Montana crops that were headed versus the five-year average were: barley, 65 percent, 76 percent average; durum wheat, 50 percent, 51 percent average; spring wheat, 44 percent, 28 percent average; winter wheat, 89 percent, 90 percent average. Crops rated good to excellent include: barley, 53 percent; dry peas, 65 percent, 71 percent average; spring wheat, 60 percent, 62 percent average; winter wheat, 64 percent, 67 percent average.

Covering the wheat

HAYES, S.D. — “Anytime we’ve got moisture it’s always good — it really is,” says Randy Yost, as he preps for a day at Randy’s Spray Service in Hayes, S.D., in late June.

Moisture varies significantly, but farmers in his region had received 10 to 13 inches during the growing season. The rains slowed down into the second week of July.

“Everybody’s haying here,” Yost says. “We got a little dry spell but everybody’s been waiting for that.”

More moisture has increased the corn acreage in the area, as companies have improved varieties and farmers have adopted no-till practices. Crop rotations have been improved to deal with weed problems.

“In the wheat, we’re generally dealing with herbicide,” Yost says. Kochia and Canada thistle are two of the common problems. The Yosts hit some areas with grasshoppers, alfalfa weevils and aphid problems in June.

“Fungicide has gotten to be a big deal in the past 10 years,” Yost says, and almost everything was treated this year. When that was done, the company turned to corn and fallow work before the other big run — insecticide in sunflower, which typically starts in late July to August, Yost says.

Stirrup-deep grass

QUINN, S.D. — Jeff Gabriel runs a cow-calf operation with his father, Larry, a former South Dakota agriculture secretary, 28 miles north of Quinn, S.D. This year, the pasture land is about as good as it ever looks this time of year — “stirrup-deep grass in most places,” Jeff says.

“It’s about as nice as can be,” Jeff says, of the green pasture lands. They’d had a lot of “steady, nice rains” this year.

The Gabriels lost about a dozen cows in the Oct. 4 blizzard, but felt fortunate compared with others in the region.

“We raise a lot of horses, too, and the baby colts, we had some still on the mare, and we lost six of them.”

The Gabriels are a bit under-stocked for cattle and are building back numbers, Jeff says. They raise their own replacements. Two years ago, the Gabriels had cut back the herd because of a predicted 2012 drought. They don’t buy cattle, but keep replacements from their own herd. This year, they calved about 420 cows, but in many years their land could handle up to 620.

“But then it’s nice to have some extra grass, too,” Jeff says.