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Northern North Dakota farmers make good gains on wheat harvest

Wheat farmers across northeast North Dakota got a lot of combining done during the last week in September, said Randy Mehlhoff, North Dakota State University Langdon Research Extension Center director.

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Earl McGregor was making his last rounds on a 270-acre wheat field near Fairdale, North Dakota, on Sept. 28, 2022.
Ann Bailey / Agweek
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FAIRDALE, N.D. — Wrapping up the wheat harvest in the final days of September isn’t optimal for Dustin McGregor, but he is grateful for the good weather that gave him the green light to keep his red combines in motion.

Two days before the month ended, the Fairdale farmer had about 1,600 acres — 80% — of his 2022 wheat crop combined. McGregor is one of dozens of farmers in northern North Dakota counties that include Walsh, Cavalier and Pembina who were combining their wheat crops during the second week of official — by the calendar — fall.

That’s about two weeks later than McGregor typically finishes harvesting.

“Most of the time we like to have all of our wheat done by Sept. 10,” McGregor said.

Cold, wet conditions this spring delayed spring wheat planting by a couple of weeks, so a later-than-normal harvest was expected. However, harvest was further delayed by a string of cool, cloudy, damp days during the first few weeks in September.

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“It wasn’t awful weather, but just wet enough so you couldn’t combine,” McGregor said.

He was grateful for the unseasonably warm temperatures and breezy conditions that prevailed during the last week of September and allowed him, his father, Earl McGregor, and his father-in-law, Jeff Schuchard, to get the majority of their wheat crop in the bin.

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Dustin McGregor, Fairdale, North Dakota, was 80% finished harvesting his 2,000 acres of spring wheat on Sept. 28, 2022.
Ann Bailey / Agweek

While the amount of time they could combine was shorter than it was earlier in the harvest season — nine hours compared with as many as 12 — the dry weather allowed them to string several days together and make good progress.

Other wheat farmers across northeast North Dakota also got a lot of combining done during the last week in September, said Randy Mehlhoff, North Dakota State University Langdon Research Extension Center director.

During the third week in September there were several thousand acres of wheat left to be combined, and by the middle of the next one, there was a fraction of them left.

“The wheat is almost done,” Mehlhoff said on Sept. 28. Not only is the harvest almost complete, the quality of the crop is "really pretty good," he said.

The challenge for farmers will be to maintain the condition of the wheat, which they are harvesting at high moisture levels, Mehlhoff said. Instead of only using air to dry the stored wheat, farmers may also need to use heat because the shorter days and cooler nights that result in shorter harvest days also affect how the grain dries when it’s in the bin.

After McGregor, who farms in northwest Walsh County, and farmers in the neighboring North Dakota counties of Pembina and Cavalier, finish their wheat harvest, they will start combining canola.

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McGregor expects that some of his canola fields will be challenging to harvest because the crop is lodged in some places.

“It got too thick, and it didn’t get good stalks, and it laid down,” he said.

But he knows that there could, and have been worse harvest conditions other years.

Just three years ago, excessively wet weather in September and October damaged and destroyed tens of thousands of acres of row crops in northeastern North Dakota.

“Every year has its challenges. If you're not getting a repeat of 2019, you don’t complain,” McGregor said.

Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: abailey@agweek.com or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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