NEW SALEM, N.D. — While North Dakota as a whole lags behind in planting progress due to wet conditions, once you cross the Missouri River, plantain has been a little smoother.

“So far, it seems to be good, at least for now, but we’d definitely be willing to take other people’s rain if they want to send it our way,” said Chris Duchsherer, agronomy manager at Central Dakota Frontier Cooperative in New Salem.

Duchsherer on Tuesday, May 19, said most of the small grains in the area had been planted already. Corn were about half done, soybeans about three-quarters. Sunflower planting had just started.

“We’re doing very, very well,” he said. “We’ve been down, I think, one day for a rain day.”

Chris Duchsherer, agronomy manager at the Central Dakota Frontier Cooperative in New Salem, N.D., said farmers in his area were able to get their crops harvest in fall 2019 despite wet weather, leaving them in a better position to plant. Photo taken May 19, 2020. (Jenny Schlecht / Agweek)
Chris Duchsherer, agronomy manager at the Central Dakota Frontier Cooperative in New Salem, N.D., said farmers in his area were able to get their crops harvest in fall 2019 despite wet weather, leaving them in a better position to plant. Photo taken May 19, 2020. (Jenny Schlecht / Agweek)
While that lack of rain has allowed planting to move along at a quick clip, it also has moved western North Dakota, parts of northwestern South Dakota and a chunk of eastern Montana into the abnormally dry category on the U.S. Drought Monitor, with some places moved last week into moderate drought.

Planting in central and eastern North Dakota remains far behind normal, with soils saturated throughout 2019 and last year’s crops left to be harvested because of the poor conditions.

Central Dakota Frontier Cooperative has eight locations in southwestern and south-central North Dakota, and Duchsherer said the Missouri River serves as a boundary for how things have been going. The Hazelton location, just east of the river, has been “getting along OK.” But the Napoleon and Wishek locations have seen slow progress. The Wishek location, in south-central North Dakota, especially hs dealt with wet weather.

“If there’s any type of rain cloud, they just seem to get another inch of rain,” Duchsherer said.

Western North Dakota, including the New Salem area, were plenty wet in the fall, along with much of the region. But the area missed some of the early snowstorms, allowing the ground to freeze up and harvest to continue and wrap up by the New Year.

“We were delayed with harvest,” Duchsherer said. “It was very wet, as wet as a lot of the guys can actually remember. But we were actually able to get in.”

Field problems after harvest were few and far between, though Duchsherer said there were some people in the area with deep ruts after fighting through corn chopping.

“There weren’t really any guys around here who had to do any harvesting yet this spring but the other side to that, like I said, is we could really use some rain,” farmer Shane Tellmann said.

Shane Tellmann says planting has gone well in his area, but some rain would be welcome. Photo taken May 19, 2020. (Jenny Schlecht / Agweek)
Shane Tellmann says planting has gone well in his area, but some rain would be welcome. Photo taken May 19, 2020. (Jenny Schlecht / Agweek)
Tellmann on May 19 was planting soybeans northwest of New Salem. He already had finished wheat, barley, canola and corn. He also grows sunflowers.

Planting, he said, had been a mixed bag. Some fields were swampy from the previous year’s moisture, but Tellmann said he didn’t have to leave behind more than a few pieces of fields. Other fields were “powder dry” on the surface. The field he was on had been a little rough, so he had tilled it, which also allowed it to dry off.

While Tellmann said he wouldn’t mind a shot of rain, subsoil moisture was getting crops out of the ground without problem.

Crops are coming up in western North Dakota, where planting has moved faster than in the eastern part of the state. Photo taken May 19, 2020, in western Morton County. (Jenny Schlecht / Agweek)
Crops are coming up in western North Dakota, where planting has moved faster than in the eastern part of the state. Photo taken May 19, 2020, in western Morton County. (Jenny Schlecht / Agweek)
Duchsherer said an optimistic farmer told him a good crop can result from good subsoil moisture and timely rain later in the season. While some farmers are talking about changing some of their land to crops like sunflowers, soybeans, flax and peas and away from corn.

“For the most part, I think it’s still too early to say” whether anyone is truly worried about dry conditions, he said.

Tellmann and Duchsherer said market conditions played a role in crop changes for some. He moved some acres out of corn, though not as many as some people have, and “I still don’t know if I’m doing the right thing.” Duchsherer said most of the corn west of the Missouri goes to ethanol plants in Richardton and Underwood, N.D., and the outlook for that has spooked some people away from growing corn this year.