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Wind and dirt damage North Dakota and Minnesota row crops, especially sugarbeets

When sugarbeet plants are young, besides being damaged by blowing dirt, they are vulnerable to being sheared off by the high winds, a condition referred to as “helicoptering.”

Dirt blows across a gravel road
Wind gusts that created dust clouds has been a common sight in June 2022.
Ann Bailey / Agweek
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Gusty winds in mid- to late June damaged young crops in North Dakota and Minnesota, shearing off some of them and injuring the leaves of others.

“I think the crops that got hurt the worst are our sugarbeets and pinto beans. They got sandblasted,” said Brad Brummond, North Dakota State University Agriculture Extension agent for Walsh County. “The beets took it especially hard. Typically when it blows , it doesn’t take out one beet here and one beet there. It takes out a patch.”

American Crystal Sugar Co., based in Moorhead, Minnesota, was assessing the wind damage to sugarbeets on Monday, June 18, said Brian Inglesurd, the company’s vice president of agriculture.

”There will be areas with lost beets, there's no doubt about that,” he said. “It seems like the beets were a little bit more vulnerable in their stages on the northern end of the Valley where planting was a little later just because we had more water up there.”

When sugarbeet plants are young, besides being damaged by blowing dirt, they are vulnerable to being sheared off by the high winds, a condition referred to as “helicoptering.”


A wind speed of 56 mph was recorded in Grand Forks North Dakota, on Saturday, June 18 and a wind speed of 53 mph was clocked in Argyle, Minnesota, the National Weather Service in Grand Forks said. The previous day, the Williston, North Dakota, airport and Beach, North Dakota, had wind gusts of 53 mph, according to the National Weather Service in Bismarck, North Dakota.

Many cities across North Dakota and Minnesota recorded gusts of more than 45 mph those two days.

The winds also were strong on Monday, June 20, and Tuesday, June 21 and blowing dirt was a common sight across eastern North Dakota and northwest Minnesota.

In Grand Forks County, late planting may have resulted in less acres of wind damage than would be in a typical in a year in which crops were in a later growth stage.

“A lot of the wheat, the growing point is still below the soil surface,” said Katelyn Landeis, NDSU Extension agriculture agent-Grand Forks County.

Yields of most young crops shouldn’t be affected by the wind damage, she said. However, the damage to plant leaves may make them vulnerable to diseases.

Across the Red River in Polk County in western Minnesota, soil also has been airborne this month, especially on June 18, when winds of 46 mph were recorded in Crookston.

“There was definitely some sandblasting with moving dirt,” said Heather Dufault, University of Minnesota Extension Service agent for Polk County. “I’m sure there was some damage. There was a lot of dirt moving around.”


Some farmers were cultivating the soil in an attempt to stop it from blowing, she said.

Brummond anticipates that the wind damage to soil health will result in an increase in conservation practices such as “planting green,” in which grain crops are planted into a cover crop.

Walsh County fields that were planted using the method didn’t blow, Brummond said.

Farmers whose crops were severely damaged or destroyed will be faced with the difficult decision of whether they should replant at such a late date, Landeis noted.

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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