Snow puts the brakes on fast harvest

Crop Weather and Progress reports from the National Agricultural Statistics Service for North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and surrounding states show that the snow and precipitation in the prior week put the brakes on what had been a rapid row crop harvest that is mostly complete.

Corn from the speedy 2020 harvest poured into a pile that holds nearly 2 million bushels at Agassiz Valley Grain LLC at Barnesville, Minn., on Oct. 20, 2020. Snows since then have put the damper on progress in some areas, according to an Oct. 26 report by the National Agricultural Statistics Service. Mikkel Pates / Agweek

FARGO, N.D. — Below-average temperatures and snow in late October slammed the brakes on what was a rapid harvest pace for farmers in the Dakotas, Minnesota and surrounding states.

The weekly Crop Progress and Condition Report released Oct. 26 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service showed the week ending Oct. 25 had the fewest suitable fieldwork days for any week in this harvest to date.

Here are some state-by-state details.

North Dakota

With 3.7 days during the week suitable for fieldwork, topsoil moisture is rated 36% adequate or surplus.

Corn harvest is 73% complete for the state, up 5% from the previous week, and ahead of the 33% five-year average. Soybeans were 97% harvested, compared to the 76% five-year average (including 25% at this date in 2019).


Sunflower is 58% harvested, well ahead of the 37% average. The crop is rated 57% good to excellent.

The pasture and range conditions were 15% very poor, 34% poor, 34% fair, 15% good and 2% excellent. Stock water supplies were short or very short in 44% of the state. Sugar beets were largely harvested by Oct. 19 and potatoes were harvested by Oct. 12.

South Dakota

With 3.3 days suitable for fieldwork on the week, topsoil moisture is rated 43% adequate, with zero in the surplus category.

Corn harvest was 79% complete, compared to 13% last year and an average of 37% for this date in the past five years.

Soybean harvest, at 95% complete, is ahead of 51% last year and 78% average.

Sunflowers are 39% harvested, ahead of 10% last year, but near the average of 36% for this date. Sorghum was 87% harvested, ahead of the 46% average.

Pastures are rated 8% very poor, 29% poor, 43% fair, 20% good and 0% excellent.


With 2.6 days suitable for fieldwork, precipitation took topsoil moisture levels to 88% adequate to surplus categories.


Corn for grain was 72% harvested — three weeks ahead of last year and 10 days ahead of the five-year average. Moisture content averaged 17%, falling about 1 percentage point from the prior week.

Soybean harvest was 98% complete — 27 days ahead of last year and 18 days ahead of average.

Sunflower harvest was 95% complete — 45 days ahead of last year and 30 days ahead of the five-year average.

Pasture is rated 43% good to excellent.


With 3.8 days suitable to work in the field, Iowa farmers have adequate to surplus topsoil in 60% of the state.

Corn was 78% harvested in the state, up from 65% last week, 23% last year at this date, and a five-year average of 45% Northwest Iowa was the farthest ahead, with 92% harvested, followed by 88% in the north central part of the state. The south central part of the state was farthest behind with 49% harvested.

Soybeans were 94% harvested across the state, up from 90% last week and average of 72%. Farmers in the southern part of the state have 14% to harvest.

Pasture and range conditions were rated 13% very poor, 27% poor, 42% fair and 18% good.



With only 1.5 days suitable for fieldwork, topsoil moisture is only 35% adequate to surplus.

Corn for grain was rated 74% good to excellent, with 38% harvested, compared to a 44% five-year average. Safflower was 85% harvested compared to 69% average; sugar beets, 61% harvested, 59% average (76% good to excellent condition); winter wheat 88% planted, 91% average.

Cattle and calves were 61% moved from pasture, compared to 64% average. About 48% were receiving supplemental feed, compared to 20% last year. Sheep and lambs were 63% moved from pasture, compared to 70% average, with 47% receiving supplemental feed, compared to 18% average for this date.

Pasture and range is rated 20% very poor, 18% poor, 37% fair, 24% good and 1% excellent.

Mikkel Pates is an agricultural journalist, creating print, online and television stories for Agweek magazine and Agweek TV.
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