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VIDEO CROPSTOP: North Dakota’s sandy loam needs rain

MEDINA, N.D. -- David Deutscher feels like he's in the wrong place at the wrong time. Deutscher and his wife, Linda, who works as a web designer, have a diversified grain and livestock farm. They raise spring wheat, soybeans, alfalfa and grass fo...

Alfalfa harvested on June 21 south of Medina, N.d., yielded about half of a typical crop, due to three untimely early frosts and lack of rain. Farmr-ranch operator David Deutscher says the regrowth was blossoming at 5-6 inches tall, so a second cutting is unlikely. Photo taken June 21, 2016, south of Medina, N.D. Mikkel Pates/ Forum News Service
Alfalfa harvest on June 21 in Medina, N.D., yielded about half of a typical crop, because of three untimely early frosts and a lack of rain. By Mikkel Pates, Agweek

MEDINA, N.D. - David Deutscher feels like he’s in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Deutscher and his wife, Linda, who works as a web designer, have a diversified grain and livestock farm. They raise spring wheat, soybeans, alfalfa and grass for their cow-calf operation, where they background-feed calves until they’re in the 750- to 850-pound bracket.

He expects to start combining spring wheat by July 20, but yield and test weight are likely to suffer from a lack of rain on his rain-thirsty sandy loam soil. He thinks he won’t get a second cutting of alfalfa and wonders whether the beans will make pods at all.

This year’s cropping season got off to a pretty good start - earlier than most years, with most seeding done in late March and April, which is early for the area. They had little or no snowfall in the winter, and were living from shower to shower. At this point, beards on the wheat are turning brown. Deutscher sprayed the beans a second time to get the weeds under control until the crop canopy could close, but the canopy still hadn’t closed by July 5.

“We just don’t have any subsoil moisture at all,” Deutscher says, noting his farm’s sandy loam soil which needs a lot of moisture. Some ranchers in the region are talking about toxic algae growing in the ponds or that ponds are completely drying up, he says.

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Rainfall totals for common showers in mid-June were 0.04 inch to 0.15 inch. First-cutting of alfalfa on June 21 had been hurt by three substantial frosts and was stunted by lack of rain.

“We’re probably half of the normal height,” he says, later confirming the crop averaged 1.25 to 1.5 bales per acre, which compares to the usual 2 to 3 bales-per-acre. Regrowth on July 5 was about 5 to 6 inches and the crop was already starting to bloom, signaling there will be no second cutting.

Statewide on July 5, 19 percent of the North Dakota alfalfa hay condition was rated poor or very poor, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Livestock water supplies were 78 percent adequate to surplus, but short or very short in 22 percent of the state.

Fortunately, the ranch has some carryover from the 2015 crop they’ll take into the summer for next fall. “We’re going to be dependent on what we get this year, or else we’ll have to reduce (livestock) numbers a little bit in order to coincide with the supply.”

Pasture growth was at a standstill on July 5. Deutschers held cattle in a feedlot longer than usual - until June 27 - to make sure the pasture grass was developed enough to stay ahead of the cows. “If the pastures exhaust themselves, the Deutschers will have to bring the cattle home and start feeding them again, as some neighbors already are considering. “We’re trying to get quantity instead of quality in hay. The price of hay is too high to compensate for the lower prices on cattle.”

Here are the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service summaries of crop progress and condition reports in Agweek country for the week ending July 5.

North Dakota Near-normal temperatures and minimal rainfall increased drought stress in much of the state. Topsoil moisture was rated 72 percent adequate to surplus, with subsoil moisture adequate or better in 73 percent of the state. There were 6 days suitable for field work during the week.

Winter wheat was 73 percent good to excellent, with 38 percent coloring, well ahead of the 13 percent five-year averages for this date.

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Corn condition was 78 percent good to excellent, with silking at 21 percent, compared to 2 percent average. Soybeans were 75 percent good to excellent, with 37 percent blooming, ahead of the 11 percent average.

Canola was 83 percent good to excellent, with 84 percent blooming, ahead of the 46 percent average, with 5 percent turning color. Sunflowers are 67 percent good to excellent, with blooming at 9 percent, ahead of zero last year. Flaxseed is 83 percent good to excellent, with 51 percent blooming, ahead of the 22 percent average.

Other crop progress: Spring wheat, 77 percent good to excellent; 81 percent headed, 39 percent average. Barley, 82 percent good to excellent; 90 percent headed, 37 percent average. Oats, 67 percent good to excellent, 85 percent headed, 39 percent average, with 16 percent turning color.

Dry edible beans were 68 percent good to excellent; 18 percent bloomed, 7 percent average. Potatoes were 48 percent good to excellent; 37 percent blooming, 21 percent average. Sugar beets were ranked 66 percent good to excellent.

South Dakota Soil moisture ratings and crop stress were on the rise with a lack of rain. Winter wheat harvest started in the southern part of the state, with 6.7 days suitable for fieldwork. Topsoil moistures slipped to 50 percent adequate to surplus and subsoil is 61 percent adequate to surplus.

Winter wheat condition was rated 63 percent good to excellent, with 6 percent harvested, compared to 4 percent average.

Corn is rated 68 percent good to excellent, with 2 percent silking, behind the 3 percent average. Soybeans were rated 67 percent good to excellent, with 26 percent blooming, ahead of the 16 percent average. Spring wheat was 54 percent good to excellent, with 92 percent headed, compared to a 73 percent average, and 30 percent turning color, compared to 21 percent average.

Other crop conditions and progress: Oats, 68 percent good to excellent; 90 percent headed, 79 percent last year. Barley, 47 percent good to excellent; 81 percent headed, 59 percent average. Sunflowers, 67 percent emerged. Sorghum, 65 percent good to excellent, 11 percent headed, ahead of 1 percent average.

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Alfalfa hay was 76 percent good, with 95 percent of first-cutting complete, compared to 78 percent average. Pasture and range conditions are 55 percent good to excellent. Stock water is rated 78 percent adequate to surplus.

Minnesota One-fourth of the second cutting of alfalfa was cut during a week that had 5.8 days suitable for field work - the most in a week since early May. Topsoil moisture was 79 percent adequate to surplus, with subsoil at 82 percent adequate to surplus.

Corn condition was 79 percent good to excellent condition, declining 2 percentage points from the previous week. Soybeans were 74 percent good to excellent, with 18 percent blooming, 14 percent average.

Spring wheat was 68 percent good to excellent, with 87 percent headed, compared to 57 percent average; with condition rated 68 percent good to excellent. Barley was rated 70 percent good to excellent.

Potatoes were rated 89 percent good to excellent; sunflowers, 57 percent good to excellent; sugar beets, 80 percent good to excellent (including 58 percent excellent); dry edible beans, 66 percent good to excellent.

Montana Montana was mostly hot and dry, but Saco recorded 1.46 inches of rain. Soil moisture conditions were better than last year, with 65 percent of topsoil in adequate to surplus and 62 percent of subsoil in those two categories.

Pea and lentil harvests barely started and winter wheat conditions were 63 percent good to excellent, with 55 percent turning color, compared to 22 percent average. Dry edible peas, 95 percent blooming, 72 percent average. Lentils, 87 percent blooming, 50 percent average.

Pasture and range conditions were 43 percent good to excellent, below the five-year average of 49 percent for the date. Alfalfa was 85 percent first cutting complete, 50 percent average

Other crop progress: canola, 13 percent turning color, 6 percent average. Spring wheat, 66 percent good to excellent; 40 percent headed, 31 percent average. Barley, 65 percent good to excellent; 55 percent headed, 47 percent average. Durum wheat, 52 percent good to excellent; 25 percent headed, no average available.  


David Deutscher farms and ranches south of Medina, N.D. Photo taken June 21, 2016, south of Medina, N.D. Mikkel Pates/ Forum News Service
Farmer-rancher David Deutscher of Medina, N.D. By Mikkel Pates, Agweek

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