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Wrapping up the wheat harvest

Grain dust hung heavy in the air across much of the Upper Midwest during the week of Sept. 22, as dry and unusually warm weather allowed farmers to make rapid harvest progress.

Harvest

Grain dust hung heavy in the air across much of the Upper Midwest during the week of Sept. 22, as dry and unusually warm weather allowed farmers to make rapid harvest progress.

"It's been crazy. Everybody's really been going," says Duaine Marxen, North Dakota State University Extension Service agent in Hettinger County. Hettinger is in southwest North Dakota, where a late spring delayed planting and pushed back harvest this fall. Widespread showers in the first half of September also slowed harvest in southwest North Dakota and elsewhere.

About 90 percent of spring wheat in Marxen's area was harvested by Sept. 28, much more than just a week earlier, he says.

Farmers throughout the region harvested a lot of wheat during the week, judging by numbers released Sept. 28 by the National Agricultural Statistics Service, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Nine-one percent of North Dakota spring wheat was harvested by Sept. 28, up from 82 percent a week earlier but still less than the five-year average of 96 percent on Sept. 28.

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In Minnesota, 99 percent of spring wheat was harvested by Sept. 28, up from 91 percent a week earlier. Normally, the state's spring wheat harvest is wrapped up by Sept. 28.

South Dakota farmers harvested 99 percent of their spring wheat by Sept. 28, up from 97 percent a week earlier. Farmers in the state usually have completed harvesting wheat by Sept. 28.

Chris Lynch, manager of Howe Seed Co. in McLaughlin, S.D., says all the small grains in his area are harvested.

"Really good yields. High test weight, average protein," he says.

Montana farmers harvested 92 percent of their spring wheat by Sept. 28, up from 81 percent a week earlier. The state, which had been far behind its normal pace, now has caught up.

Another sign of favorable weather in Montana: farmers in the state planted 72 percent of winter wheat by Sept. 28, up from 45 percent a week earlier and ahead of the five-year average of 56 percent on Sept. 28.

Temperatures in parts of Montana rose into the 90s, helping to dry out fields which had received rain earlier, says Justin Downs, a Billings, Mont., farmer.

But heavy rains earlier in harvest led to extensive sprout damage, he says.

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"I've never seen as much sprout damage as we had this year," he says.

Shifting to beans and corn

Wheat is the first of the region's three major crops to be harvested. It's followed by soybeans and then corn.

Farmers and others in agriculture say temperatures, which rose well into the 80s in much of the region, pushed along the maturity of corn and soybeans.

But widespread mid-September frost, which hit many soybean fields across the region,also accelerated soybean harvest.

Virtually no soybeans had been harvested in the Upper Midwest by Sept. 22, reflecting the wet spring that delayed planting.

Ten percent of Minnesota soybeans were harvested by Sept. 28, compared with the five-year average of 22 percent for that date.

Seven percent of South Dakota soybeans were harvested by Sept. 28, compared with the five-year average of 22 percent for that date.

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Lynch, the McLaughlin, S.D., seed dealer, says soybeans in his area look good. Harvest is expected to begin there in the week of Oct. 6.

North Dakota farmers had harvested 9 percent of soybeans by Sept. 28, compared with the five-year average of 24 percent for that date.

Small amounts of corn in South Dakota and Minnesota were harvested by Sept. 28. Farmers and ag officials in the two states tell Agweek that corn harvest won't begin in earnest until well in October.

The unanswered question

The big question, which won't be answered fully until corn harvest is finished, is how much damage was done by the mid-September frost.

Sunflowers, usually the last crop in the region to be harvested, appear to have avoided serious damage.

"It looks like they came through in good shape," Marxen says.

Sunflowers are popular in western North Dakota.

By all accounts, the mid-September did widespread damage to both corn and soybeans.

Doug Suhr, a farmer in Kasson, Minn., near Rochester, says estimating the damage is difficult.

"You can do all the estimating and counting (of potential frost damage), but you won't know what it (yields) will be until it's in the bin," he says.

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