Catching up

FARGO, N.D. -- Farmers in Agweek country started planting a month or more later than normal this past spring, but some people say the crops are catching up to average, yet still behind last year's drought-accelerated progress.

South Dakota cropstop

FARGO, N.D. -- Farmers in Agweek country started planting a month or more later than normal this past spring, but some people say the crops are catching up to average, yet still behind last year's drought-accelerated progress.

Agweek spoke to several farmers on a recent CropStop trip through east-central North Dakota and into northern South Dakota.

Tackling weeds

CASSELTON, N.D. -- Gary Johnson works for McIntyre-Pyle Inc., the parent company of Unity Seed Inc. in Casselton, N.D. Unity does food-grade exports to Japan and seed sales. Agweek stopped to talk to Johnson July 12.

Johnson was spraying thistle in a low spot in a conventional, food-grade soybean field, just south of Amenia, N.D. The field hosted some test plots a few years ago, and weeds require some spot spraying.


This has been a relatively good year for weed control in the area, Johnson says. He says a new chemical from Valent U.S.A. Corp. called "Fierce" has been effective. "That's a pre-emerge chemical and that's done an excellent job for us on this food-grade (soybean crop)," Johnson says. "It's just done wonders. We've got pretty clean fields."

A lot of rain fell in the area this spring. Fierce needs the rain to be active, Johnson says. "When you spray it on, you need a minimum of a quarter-inch to get it activated and every time it rains, it reactivates again, and you get the germinating seeds."

Three years ago, some farmers reported herbicide resistance for common ragweed in the Casselton area, Johnson says, and the lambsquarters weed has become resistant in the area.

"We don't have a large problem because we have rotation (crops). The guys that grow beans, and beans ... and beans, without rotation, have a bigger problem. You can kill it with 2-4,D in your wheat, but it's getting tougher. And buckwheat, while not resistant, is really getting tough to kill with (glyphosate)."

In mid-July, crops in the Casselton area were behind but doing surprisingly well, considering the slow start. Corn was about fully tasseled by July 24, Johnson figures.

"That's generally what you want on corn is to have it tasseling by Aug. 1, and then hopefully I think (about) Sept. 20 is our frost date, so we want it black-layered by then," he says, referring to the black layer located at the base of a corn kernel at physiological maturity.

The soybeans were short, but could catch up if they get more rain, he says. Johnson says he personally doesn't mind 85-degree temperatures, but if it gets above that, it doesn't help crops, particularly corn.

"It just cooks stuff quicker," he says. When night-time temperatures get into the 70s or 60s, it provides some growing degree units. "As long as it doesn't freeze, that's the main thing," he says.


Clean-up spraying

VERONA, N.D. -- Tom Christensen, sitting with neighbors in the Good Oil Co. service station and convenience store, was designated by his coffee cohorts to talk with an Agweek correspondent.

Christensen raises the typical crops of the community -- corn and beans. "And weeds," he jokes in a deadpan.

Seriously, Christensen says the late start in his planting season was followed by 8 to 9 inches of rain, but too little since then. Some areas remained inundated on July 17, but Christensen noted that an inch or two would be welcome.

"There is a lot of wet, but they don't pay us for prevent-plant anymore," Christensen says.

The corn crop was looking good and appeared ready to tassel more or less on time. Some of the soybeans were flowering. Crop-spraying was happening on time.

"We're down to clean up," Christensen says, adding that there hadn't been any soybean aphid problem in the region so far. "That's good," he says. Wheat fields are few and far between in the area, but Christensen says what's there looks good.

Some farmers in the area were reporting herbicide carryover from 2012 corn into 2013 soybeans, perhaps from the dryness last fall.


Hail yes, but mostly good

WESTPORT, S.D. -- Larry Cook is a partner in L&O Acres of Westport, S.D., with Greg Odde.

The two have been friends since growing up in the Wahpeton, N.D., area. Odde's sons, Kirby and Kris, are also in the company. The farm produces corn and soybeans. The group also runs a 13-unit trucking company and Far Better Farm Equipment Co., which markets Kinze Grain Carts, Miller Nitro Sprayer and other short lines.

L&O and its associated businesses employ more than 30 people -- all local labor, and all year round. "We have to -- the machinery we run is pretty complicated and big," Cook says. "You can't rotate good operators in and out. Our biggest turnover is in truck drivers." The farm has six combines and nine large Case-IH tractors.

The farming operations are based about 11 miles north of Aberdeen, S.D. L&O operates in nine counties about 150 miles north to south, and 100 miles east to west -- from near Ellendale, N.D., to Woonsocket, S.D., to near Iroquois, S.D.

Crops this year were planted in a timely fashion, right around the first of May, Cook says. L&O runs four corn planters and three air seeders. The last 2,500 acres took longer than the first 35,000, he says. Corn was getting ready to tassel on July 17. Beans are further behind in the north, but about normal in the south.

A hail storm on July 10 took out a strip of crop from Forbes, N.D., to Groton, S.D. "We lost one section of beans up there, just this side of Frederick (S.D.)," Cook says. It was big enough hail to crush cattails, perhaps 2 inches in diameter.

Unlike corn, beans get hailed on and two or three days later, they're putting on new leaves. "I've had beans hailed out in the first part of July before, and come back and make 40 bushel to the acre," Cook says, but adds it is trickier to harvest the weakened beans.


Cook's main concern about this year's crop is declining prices, which doesn't make sense because the carryout supplies are low, and because the crop isn't there yet.

"Last year at this time, the crop looked "awesome," he says. But the drought cut the yield to less than half, at 60 to 70 bushels per acre.

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