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Published August 07, 2010, 12:00 AM

Winter wheat harvest takes off

Farmers across southwest North Dakota are starting up their combines and heading to the fields. The much anticipated winter wheat crop is ready for harvest.

By: Lisa Miller, The Dickinson Press

Farmers across southwest North Dakota are starting up their combines and heading to the fields. The much anticipated winter wheat crop is ready for harvest.

“Out here wheat is king,” Stark County Extension Agent Kurt Froelich said.

North Dakota ranks second among states in total wheat production, according to the North Dakota Wheat Commission.

About 70 percent of the wheat planted in the United States is winter wheat, according to the Iowa State University website.

Its primary use is bread-making, according to the Wheat Foods Council.

“I’ve been planting it since 2001 and it yields 30 to 40 percent higher than spring wheat,” said Ryan Kadrmas, Dunn County farmer. Another advantage winter wheat has over spring is that it “matures faster so it is not affected as much or not at all by sawflies.”

Winter wheat is a unique plant. Unlike most crops, winter wheat must be exposed to near-freezing temperatures following germination to “vernalize” the plants and initiate reproductive development, according to the North Dakota State University website.

In order to expose the wheat to these extreme temperatures it is planted in the fall, lies dormant through the winter, grows in the spring and then is harvested in early summer, according to the National Wheat Growers Association website.

One practice Kadrmas uses to ensure the survival of winter wheat is to plant it in higher stubble, about 12 inches or more. The stubble helps to provide snow cover.

Snow cover is necessary to protect dormant plants from winter kill and provide early spring moisture, according to NDSU’s agriculture website.

Other practices that help winter wheat prosper are the use of fertilizer and fungicide.

“We fertilize and fungicide it more than spring wheat, because of the higher yield potential and because it is developing during cool and wet conditions, Kadrmas said.

Those conditions make it more susceptible to certain diseases,” Kadrmas said.

“It has been a pretty good growing season this far, people are already hauling grain to make room for the new crop,” Dunn County Extension Agent Dave Twist said.

Southwest Grain 12 percent winter wheat prices were $5.14 per bushel Friday.

In the United States, one acre of wheat yields an average of 37.1 bushels, according to the Wheat Foods Council.

Full-swing harvest is fast approaching in other areas of southwest North Dakota.

McKenzie County Extension Agent Dale Naze reports that harvest of barley, peas and winter wheat has just begun and late-season haying is taking place, as well.

“We are still a few weeks out on lentils and spring wheat durums,” Naze said.

“Farmers are patiently waiting for the crops to ripen. If we can keep the hail away it will be a good year for Hettinger County,” Dwain Barondeau, Hettinger County Extension agent said.

Bowman County Extension Agent Andrea Bowman said that farmers in her area are harvesting peas and barley.

Calls to Slope, Adams, Mercer and Golden Valley Extension agents were not returned by Friday evening.

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