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North Dakota's Sunflower crop is 51 percent harvested, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture North Dakota Crop, Weather and Livestock Report, released Monday.

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"Most area farmers started harvesting last week and yields are looking to be above average," said Art Ridl, director on the National Sunflower Association Board.

"Our yields have been between 400 pounds (in the places that had hail) and 2,000 pounds," said Byron Richard, Belfield farmer.

Not only are yields good this year but so are prices, Ridl said.

Sunflower prices are very firm this week, said Larry Kleingartner, executive director for the National Sunflower Association. "We are approaching about $20 per hundred weight."

"When you have a good crop and good prices the more fun it is to combine," Ridl said.

Kleingartner said he expects farmers will be finishing up a good portion of the harvest within the next week if the weather stays nice.

The best time to harvest is about a week after a good hard frost. The sunflowers should be dried down and brown in color," said Richard. "We had a late frost this year -- the first real hard one was last week, but our harvest for the most part seems to be on track."

Weather during the hard frost included hurricane-type winds and in some areas, a considerable amount of snow, which was then blown into standing crops. Field loss estimates have ranged from zero to 30 percent, according to the National Sunflower Association.

"Sunflower harvesters need to watch is moisture content," Kleingartner said. "Having really dry seeds can lead to combine fires, and that is something farmers really need to watch for while they are harvesting."

Moisture content in the area has been between 10 and 14 percent, said Art Ridl, National Sunflower Association Board director, adding farmers want to stay above 10 percent to prevent combine fires.

Ridl said another way to prevent fires is to blow off or clean machinery at the end of the day.

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