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Reaping begins

WARSAW, N.D. - Wheat harvest began late in the afternoon July 24 on the Gudajtes farm just north Warsaw, N.D., as three green John Deere combines rolled into 80 acres of wheat cut into swathes.

WARSAW, N.D. - Wheat harvest began late in the afternoon July 24 on the Gudajtes farm just north Warsaw, N.D., as three green John Deere combines rolled into 80 acres of wheat cut into swathes.

Two semitrailers and a grain cart were there to take the wheat straight into Minto (N.D.) Grain, a few miles to the west.

"We started about 5:15," says Jay Gudajtes, 33, who farms with his brother, Lee, and their father, John.

They each run their own operation but farm together as John Gudajtes and Sons. Jay's brother, Andy, also has a sugar beet farming operation with them, while working for Alerus Financial in Grand Forks, N.D.

Bruce Jangula and Tom Kosebud are at the helms of twin 9600 combines, both about 10-years-old. Lee Gudajtes is running a newer 9650 that also has a GPS device that can measure crop yields across the field for better analysis of future fertilizer and other needs.

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Jay reaches into the backseat of the pickup and grabs a folder with printed lists of all the Gudajtes crops and runs his finger down a page. "This wheat was planted the 20th of April," he says.

New variety

It's a new variety of the hard red spring wheat that made North Dakota farms famous and is called Traverse. It promises "really high bushels, slightly lower protein and pretty good test weight," Jay says, watching the combines wreak havoc through the swaths. "It seems to be doing just what it says."

The wheat is running 60 to 65 bushels an acre, with average protein of 14 percent and test weight of 60 pounds a bushel, Jay reports. That's about normal for the Gudajtes Farms, Jay says. He's seen his wheat run more than 100 bushels an acre at times and isn't impressed until it runs at least 75 bushels an acre, he says.

Almost twice the price

With wheat prices the highest in years, it looks like the beginning of a good harvest all around.

Spring wheat is worth $5.80 to $5.90 at area grain elevators and more than $6 a bushel for delivery late in the fall. That's almost twice what it was a few years ago.

It looks to be a bumper crop all-around in North Dakota this year, with rainfall way above average and above-average sun and heat.

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Even though spring wheat acres planted are down 14 percent from last year, production is expected to be up 6 percent to 226 million bushels, the largest crop in three years, as average yield is projected to be 37 bushels an acre, up from 31 last year.

Many of the acres devoted to wheat in previous years were planted this year to corn and beans, which also look good at this point.

Other cropsSome of the corn in the area already is 12 feet high, Jay says, although Gudajtes Farms doesn't have much in the way of corn acres.

Sugar beets are their big cash crop, year in, year out. John Gudajtes, in fact, is on the board of directors of American Crystal Sugar Co., and was at a board meeting July 24 in Moorhead, Minn.

"The beets look really good this year," Jay says.

The beets already are hefty, the size of many beets at harvest, despite being pulled more than two months before the harvest will begin.

As the sun nears the horizon, Heidi Gudajtes brings Ben, who turns 1 in a few days, to the field, carries him to the combine and lifts him up to her husband, Lee, and then climbs into the cab, too, to ride around on the first hours of harvest.

By 8:30 p.m., the first 80 acres is threshed, and the wheat kernels have dried down from 15.5 percent moisture to 14 percent, so the Gudjateses decide to keep going on the next 80 acres to the east, Jay says.

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"We will keep going until about midnight."

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