Crops rebounding after rocky start

FARGO, N.D. -- Crops through the region are in generally good to excellent condition, especially after a rocky start in some areas. Here are weekly summaries of NASS reports, as of July 5, as well as an Agweek crop stop report for west-central Mi...

FARGO, N.D. -- Crops through the region are in generally good to excellent condition, especially after a rocky start in some areas. Here are weekly summaries of NASS reports, as of July 5, as well as an Agweek crop stop report for west-central Minnesota:

North Dakota

Farmers were largely scouting for insects and disease, haying and finishing up spraying in the week before the Fourth of July.

It was below average in rainfall for the week, but soil moisture is generally better than usual. Topsoil moisture was rated 93 percent adequate or surplus, compared with the five-year average of 70 percent. Subsoil moisture is 89 percent adequate or surplus compared with a five-year average of 71 percent.

The driest area, for both topsoil and subsoil moisture is in the Beach, N.D., area, while much of the east -- especially the northeast and southeast are in surplus categories.


The outlook for July 6 to 12 is for temperatures near or below normal and near to above-normal precipitation.

Small grains development gained more than 20 percentage points in the booted and beyond stages, but still remained behind last year and average. Some 17 percent of the spring wheat was headed, nearly two weeks behind average. Other percentage for heading were durum 8 percent, 36 percent average; barley, 14 percent, 65 percent average; and oats, 17 percent headed, 60 percent average.

Canola was 28 percent blooming, compared with 71 percent average. Corn was 7 percent silking, 2 percent average; dry beans, 2 percent blooming, 16 percent average; flaxseed, 12 percent blooming, 45 percent average; potatoes, 10 percent blooming, 36 percent average; soybeans 4 percent blooming, 16 percent average; and sunflowers, 98 percent emerged, 99 percent average.

Crop rating in the good to excellent condition categories included barley, 85 percent; durum, 72 percent; spring wheat, 84 percent; oats, 89 percent; canola, 75 percent; corn, 76 percent; dry beans, 76 percent; dry peas, 80 percent; flaxseed, 66 percent; potatoes, 58 percent; soybeans, 81 percent; sugar beets, 67 percent; sugar beets, 67 percent; sunflower, 85 percent; and pasture, 74 percent.

The first cutting of alfalfa was 54 percent complete by week's end, compared with 50 percent last year and a 65 percent average for this date. Other hay was 27 percent cut, compared with 36 percent average. Hay was rated 68 percent good to excellent, compared with an average of 48 percent for the date.


Corn and soybean growth now is on pace with the five-year average.

Corn height is 42 inches, just behind the five-year average of 43 inches. Average soybean height is 11 inches, compared with 12 inches.


Other crops development, compared with five-year averages: soybeans, 5 percent blooming, 17 average; spring wheat, 30 percent heading, 68 percent average; oats, 70 percent heading, 79 percent average; barley, 35 percent heading, 67 percent average; and alfalfa, 95 percent first cutting, 95 percent average.

Crop conditions in the good to excellent categories: pasture, 58 percent; spring wheat, 59 percent; barley, 56 percent; oats, 63 percent; soybeans, 74 percent; corn, 82 percent; potatoes, 78 percent; alfalfa, 60 percent; canola, 23 percent, with 18 percent rated poor; sunflower, 54 percent, with 10 percent poor; green peas, 76 percent; dry beans, 69 percent; sugar beets, 71 percent.

Again, the northwest corner of the state is in surplus moisture, while the rest of the state is surplus, except for a belt through rated short through the state's midsection, to north of the Twin Cities. West-central and northwest locations mostly were behind normal in moisture in the past month, except for Crookston, which was 1.7 inches ahead for the period.

Growing degree days are behind normal in west-central Minnesota, including towns such as Fergus Falls, and the northwest, including Crookston and Moorhead.

South Dakota

Much of the southern and western parts of the state reached the 90s during the week, but the rest of the state was in the 80s, with temps 5 degrees cooler than average in the southeast and the rest near average.

Northeast South Dakota continued a dry trend, with most stations receiving less than a half-inch for the week -- "much less than average for this time of year." Western and southern parts of the state were well above average in moisture, with Faith the highest at 2.11 inches. Growing degree days lag well behind.

Topsoil moisture is 71 percent adequate to surplus, compared with 83 percent last year; subsoil moisture is 69 percent adequate to surplus, compared with 87 percent last year. Much of the northeast is 2 inches to 3 inches below normal from April 1.


Crop conditions in the good to excellent categories included: winter wheat, 53 percent; spring wheat, 62 percent, with 15 percent poor or worse; barley, 71 percent good to excellent; oats, 69 percent; corn, 62 percent; soybeans, 55 percent; sunflower, 65 percent; alfalfa, 70 percent; cattle, 82 percent; sheep, 85 percent; and range and pasture, 76 percent.

Crop progress: winter wheat, none ripe, 21 percent average; barley, 4 percent turning color, 17 percent average; oats, 5 percent turning color, 24 percent average; and spring wheat, 5 percent turning color, 22 percent average;

Corn, 25 inches, 35 inches average; 39 percent second cultivation and spraying vs. 61 percent average; and soybeans, 18 percent blooming and 15 percent average.


High temperatures and low precipitation marked the week before Independence Day. Miles City had the highest temperature at 97 degrees. Sidney had 1.81 inches of rain, for a high in the state.

Topsoil moisture is 40 percent adequate to surplus, just below the previous week's 41 percent and last year's 54 percent. Subsoil moisture is 41 percent in the adequate to surplus categories, down from the previous week's 47 percent and last year's 52 percent. The forecast for July 13 to 19 was for warm and dry conditions in the state.

Crops in the headed stage, compared with the five-year average: barley, 28 percent, 53 percent average; durum, 7 percent, 31 percent average; oats, 34 percent, 50 percent average; and winter wheat, 94 percent, 97 percent average.

Camelina turning ripe was 3 percent, while winter wheat was 7 percent ripening vs. 38 percent average for the date.


Crop conditions in the good to excellent categories: winter wheat, 58 percent; 59 percent average; barley, 60 percent, 66 percent average; spring wheat, 60 percent; 66 percent average; and durum, 80 percent, 53 percent average.

Northeast precipitation reporting points averaged about 73 percent of normal precipitation, averaging about 1.5 inches behind normal since April 1. The southeast averaged about 5 percent behind average precipitation, averaging less than a half-inch behind normal.

Crop stops: West-central Minnesota to east-central South Dakota

MEIRE GROVE, Minn. -- Karl Meyer and his wife, Geri, keep a 70-cow dairy and feed out steers and young stock. They also raise corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa at a farm just east of Meire Grove, Minn.

"This spring was really, really dry," Meyer says, noting that he received nearly 3 inches of rain in late June. "Everything looks good."

The first cutting of alfalfa came in around 2.5 to 3 tons per acre, which is about typical.

Meyer sells milk to Land O'Lakes in Melrose, Minn., and handles the work, with his wife, three children and a little part-time help. He raises enough to sell a little corn and soybeans on the side for a cash crop.

As for the crop progress, recent rains have help the corn to be almost caught up to average.


Soybeans are behind schedule, Meyer says. On lower ground, some soybeans were sitting in dry ground and didn't germinate until mid-June.

"With the wheat, we hope it'll do good, but it's about half the height that we're used to," Meyer says. "But it started to head out with moisture."

The 2008 yields were about 70 bushels per acre, but Meyer normally averages 50 to 55 bushels on land he fertilizes with manure from the livestock operation.

PAYNESVILLE, Minn. -- David Brinkman manages the L.H. Peterson Farm about five miles southeast of Paynesville, Minn. He maintains about 40 beef cow-calf pairs and finishes out steers. Brinkman raises corn, soybeans and alfalfa.

This was a dry planting season.

"The corn went in good soil conditions, but there was some germination on the hills that was a little spotty. The corn made shoulder-high by the Fourth instead of knee-high," he says.

Brinkman started converting the farm to no-till in 1974, and that helped with the dry conditions this year. He says some of the poor germination in the area may be a result of "recreational tillage," which dries the soil.

"The soybeans are looking very good," he says, despite receiving only a half-inch of rain in April and an inch in May. "In late June, we got 3 inches, and it all came nice," he says, although farmers 20 miles to the north farmers were hit with hail. "That did a lot of damage. We were very lucky."


Everything looks good at this point, Brinkman says.

"We could use rain now, after the hot weekend, yes we could," he says.

First-cutting alfalfa was put up in the best conditions he's seen for many years and yielded a strong 2½ tons per acre. Second cutting started July 6 and is "shorter than what the first crop was, but it looks good."

Farmers in the area were watching to see whether they needed to spray insecticide on soybeans and some had sprayed for the alfalfa leaf hopper. Trees in his yard were full of armyworms, but those went away.

BLOMKEST, Minn. -- Phillip Damhof, 62, operates an 80-cow family near Blomkest, Minn., a few miles south of Willmar, Minn.

His son, Paul, 30, is handling much of the farming, and also is growing his business as a custom harvester, operating an impressive Case 8010 Axial Flow combine. Paul farms in a partnership with a few other neighbors. He grows corn and alfalfa, as well as soybeans and dry edible beans.

"The spring planting was very normal," the elder Damhof says. "But it's been dry."

First-cutting alfalfa produced the lowest tons per acre Phillip ever has seen, he says, at about 1.6 tons.

"That's very poor for me. I have 100 acres and I fertilize," he says.

For the dairy, Phillip typically purchases about 100 acres Paul's corn, and -- depending on the year -- Paul raises about 400 to 500 acres of corn. Paul also raises about 225 acres of navy beans.

Damhof says he's heard reports that his area is 16 inches short of rain this year.

"We get a quarter-inch . . . maybe 1½," he says, but points to his lawn as the best indicator. "Usually we mow two times a week in the spring. Right now, we're going on two weeks. I think the crops look pretty good today, for it being so dry. So we're learning to have patience."

Damhof notes that 2008 was dry, too, but the crops somehow produced a yield.

"I don't know where it came from," he says, noting that the corn yields ranged from 150 bushels per acre to more than 200 -- "maybe 175.18 for the whole farm," he says. "Now, we're going to have the second dry year."

PORTER, Minn. -- Jerome Bruns farms three miles east of Porter, Minn. He raises corn and soybeans in rotation on 330 acres of tillable land

On a recent day, he was mowing the lawn and emptying grain bins at the same time.

"We try to get them cleaned up for the coming harvest," he says. "These particular loads I could have sold for $4, but now the price is about $3.40 per bushel."

He is hoping the price may migrate closer to the $4 level again.

In 2008, his corn ran about 142 bushels, while the soybeans were "a bit of a failure" at 30 to 35 bushels, considering beans had been averaging 50 to 55 bushels in recent years.

"Fortunately, the price made up for it," he says.

This year's planting was fairly early -- ending in April for the corn and the first week in May for the beans.

"It was dry for planting, but there's moisture below," he says.

It was a godsend in mid-June when a 2-inch rain fell.

"That really brightened the spirits and then we got another inch after that. It looks good now, if we can keep getting timely rains," he says.

He hasn't yet noticed any insect problems. Chemicals have been doing their job against the weeds.

He also hopes to avoid the hail. Farmers only two miles south caught a strip of hail a mile wide and five miles long.

CLEAR LAKE, S.D. -- Michael Niemann, 47, and his family milk about 90 cows on Niemann Dairy, just east of Clear Lake, S.D. They milk in a tie stall barn he's worked in for about 12 years. Niemann has three sons, but says the dairy operation is bound to change.

"It's getting down about o me," he says.

His wife, Sandy, is a purchaser at a local hospital. His youngest son, Brian, 18, this fall will go to Valley City (N.D.) State University, where he'll play football. Collin, 21, has energy technology degree at Lake Area Vo Tech in Watertown, S.D., and on July 7, started a job working on wind towers with Energy Maintenance Service of Gary, S.D. Craig, 23, is getting his degree in dairy production at South Dakota State University in Brookings.

As for the 2009 grain crop, Niemann says his 250 acres is all forage -- alfalfa and corn.

There was a 3½-inch rain when the fields still were frozen, in early April.

"Most of that went into the lakes. Then we had hardly any rain in April and May," he says.

Corn planting went well, but "we were cold and just didn't warm up, and it didn't rain."

Some corn fields had germination problems.

Alfalfa results in the first cutting were "spotty," with some fields doing well and others "not going anywhere" and yielding less than half of the normal 2- to 2½-ton typical yield. "The dandelions really took over, it seemed like, in the old stands."

Fortunately, June brought 3 inches of rain, and he's just picked up another 1½ in early July.

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