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Northern North Dakota small grains harvest lags

Little wheat and barley has been harvested in some northern North Dakota counties.

Combine and truck
A combine and a truck sit idle in western Grand Forks County. Late planting and wet harvest conditions have delayed small grains harvest in some areas of North Dakota. Photo taken Sept. 20, 2022.
Ann Bailey / Agweek
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As the calendar turned to autumn, there still were thousands of acres of small grains still standing in northern North Dakota fields.

While, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department National Statistics Service, statewide in North Dakota 91% of the wheat was harvested as of Sept. 18, about the same amount as last year and the five-year average, little has been harvested in some northern counties.

According to NASS, 88% of the state’s durum wheat was mature, 12% less than last year and the average of 99%. Slightly more than three-quarters — 77% — of North Dakota’s durum crop was harvested, 22% less than last year and 11% less than average

The statistics service estimates are based on the total amount of wheat harvested in North Dakota, which means there are some counties where there is less combined and some where harvest is wrapped up.

“It wouldn't surprise me that in some countries you have 30, 40% left to harvest. Others are at 100%,” said Jim Peterson, North Dakota Wheat Commission policy and marketing director.

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Wheat stalks and heads
Wheat is slow to dry in early fall because there is less daylight.
Ann Bailey / Agweek

During the Wheat Quality Council hard spring wheat and durum tour held in late July, it was evident that the wheat harvest in northern North Dakota counties would be late, Peterson said.

“We knew that would always be one of the challenges with the late planting, that there were sections of the crop that would be at risk of harvesting in October," he said. That puts the crop at some risk, because, besides being damaged by frost, the crop dries more slowly in the fall than it does in the summer.

“The later you get, you can’t rely on the natural sunlight and air temperatures to dry,” Peterson said.

In Cavalier County, in northeast North Dakota, most of the wheat and barley still is in the field.

“All the small grains are pretty much left,” said Randy Mehlhoff, director of the Langdon (North Dakota) Research Extension Center in Cavalier County. Part of the reason is the cold, wet spring that delayed planting.

For example, the fields at the Extension center didn’t get planted until the end of May.

“Last year we were done by May 23,” Mehlhoff said.

Now that fields are ready to be combined, rain and high humidity during the third week in September have exacerbated the harvest delay. The barley at the extension center which has been swathed, is susceptible to sprouting in those conditions.

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IMG_1079.jpg
Pockets of North Dakota still have wheat standing in late September.
Ann Bailey / Agweek

"I'm really worried about that because two-row barley, you sneeze on it, it will sprout," Mehlhoff said.

Late planting and wet weather the past week also delayed the canola harvest in Cavalier County, which leads North Dakota in production and acreage. In 2020, Cavalier County farmers grew 458,253 acres of canola, which was 16% of the state’s total acreage of 2.9 million, NASS said.

Statewide, 68% of canola was harvested in North Dakota, 12% less than last year and 10% less than average.

Cavalier County farmers have swathed canola, but it’s been too wet to combine fields, Mehlhoff said.

The middle of the week of Sept. 18 was dry in Cavalier County but more rain was expected by the weekend. The rain would be unwelcome because crops already are mature, Mehlhoff said.

“Right now rain doesn’t do anything, anyway,” he said.

Here’s a look at some other crop conditions and progresses of Sept. 18, in North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota and Montana, according to NASS offices in the four states.

North Dakota

Winter wheat planted was 42%, ahead of 37% last year and 34% average. Emerged was 8%, 7% more than last year, and near the 4% average.

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Corn conditions were 2% very poor, 7% poor, 31% fair, 50% good, and 10% excellent. Corn dough was 95%, behind 100% last year, and near the 98% average. Dented was 76%, behind 88% last year, and near the average of 77%. Mature was 26%, 14% less than last year, and near the 29% average.

Barley harvested was 93%, 7% less than last year, and near the 97% average.

Sunflower conditions were 2% very poor, 6% poor, 33% fair, 51% good, and 8% excellent.

Sunflowers ray flowers dry was 89%, near 93% last year and 91% average of 91%. Bracts turned yellow were 67%, behind 79% last year and 74% average. Bracts turned brown were 30%, behind 36% last year, and near 34% average.

Flax harvested was 74% complete, behind 91% last year, and near the average of 77%.

South Dakota

Corn conditions were 13% very poor, 18% poor, 30% fair, 35% good, and 4% excellent. Corn dented was 89%, behind 94% last year, but ahead of the five-year average of 84%. Mature was 37%, behind 48% last year, but near the 36% average. Harvested was 2%, near 4% last year, and equal to average.

Soybean conditions were 7% very poor, 18% poor, 34% fair, 39% good and 2% excellent.

Soybeans dropping leaves were 52%, well behind 76% last year and behind the average of 59%. Harvested was 2%, near 3%, both last year and average.

Winter wheat planted was 32%, near 30% last year and 29% average. Five percent had emerged, 4% more than last year and 3% more than average.

Minnesota

Spring wheat harvested was 92%, 8% less than last year and 5% less than the five-year average.

Corn dented or beyond reached 86%. Corn maturity was at 21%, one week behind the five-year average. Corn condition was 3% very poor, 6% poor, 28% fair, 49% good, and 14% excellent.

Soybeans dropping leaves was at 31%, five days behind average. Soybean conditions were 2% very poor, 6% poor, 29% fair, 50% good and 13% excellent.

Montana

Corn harvested for grain was 14% complete, compared to 4% completed last year during the same time period.

Winter wheat emergence for the 2023 crop began this week, with emergence reported at 5%, compared to 3% emergence this time last year.

Canola, dry edible bean, durum wheat, flaxseed, and mustard seed harvest is nearing completion, with harvest reported more than 95% complete for each crop.

Related Topics: AGRICULTURECROPSWHEAT
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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