Kevin Capistran has finished his sunflower harvest. And this year he had it wrapped it up in October, a few days before he even began combining sunflowers in the soggy, miserable fall of 2019.
"Harvest just went so much better this year," said Capistran, a Crookston, Minn., sunflower producer and a past chairman of the Mandan, N.D.-based National Sunflower Association.
Farmers across the Upper Midwest share his sentiment, with the latest weekly crop progress report from the National Agricultural Statistics Service, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, showing that the area soybean harvest is virtually wrapped up with the corn harvest close to completed, too. The report, released Nov. 2 reflected conditions Nov. 1.
The week ending Nov. 1 wasn't particularly productive for area harvest. Uncooperative weather, including rain and snow, allowed farmers in Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota an average of just 3.2 to 5.3 days suitable for fieldwork. But additional harvest progress in the week, on top of the brisk harvest pace before it, still put producers overall in good shape.
For some producers, the late October moisture was welcome. It helped to recharge soil moisture, a significant concern for many area farmers going into the 2021 crop season. The new report found that subsoil moisture remains worrisome in much of the region, though Minnesota is doing relatively well. NASS found that:
Iowa subsoil moisture was 1% percent surplus, 46% adequate and 53% short or very short.
Minnesota subsoil moisture was 5% surplus, 79% adequate and 16% short or very short.
Montana subsoil moisture was 42% adequate and 58% short or very short.
North Dakota subsoil moisture was 3% surplus, 37% adequate and 60% short or very short.
South Dakota subsoil moisture was 38% adequate, 62% short or very short.
Sunflowers, a prominent crop in South Dakota, North Dakota and parts of northwest Minnesota, where Capistran farms, generally are the last crop to be harvested. in the area.
This year, 69% of North Dakota's sunflower crop was harvested on Nov. 1, compared with the five-year average of 54%. The South Dakota crop was 50% combined, down slightly from the five-year average of 52%. Minnesota's sunflower harvest pace wasn't included in the new NASS report.
Capistran said that his sunflower yields weren't particularly good this year. But the relative ease of harvest, as well as being able to avoid the heavy drying costs in 2019, shouldn't be overlooked.
"This year was so much more enjoyable," he said.
Here's a closer look at the harvest pace for corn, soybeans and sugar beets. All numbers are for Nov. 1
Minnesota — 83% was harvested, up from the five-year average of 65%.
North Dakota — 84% was harvested, up from the five-year average of 48%.
South Dakota — 85% was combined, up from the five-year average of 54%.
Iowa — 87% of the crop was combined, up from the five-year average of 63%.
North Dakota — 100% was harvested, compared with the five-year average of 85%.
South Dakota — 97% was combined, up from the five-year average of 90%.
Iowa — 97% was combined, up from the five-year average of 86%.
Minnesota — 94% was harvested, up from the five-year average of 92%.
Minnesota's sugar beet harvest was complete, with North Dakota's harvest virtually wrapped up.