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Growing season filled with joys, woes

This year's corn crop has lived up to the old adage, "Knee-high by the Fourth of July," Mott farmer Darwyn Mayer said.

"In previous years, we've struggled with cold springs, but it's been pretty warm here so far and this year the corn will be knee high by the Fourth of July," said Mayer, who gave this year's

growing season a thumbs up on Tuesday. "The season has been good for corn so far. Corn can take heat better than a lot of other crops, and heat can be a challenge in this area."

According to the North Dakota Corn Growers Association, there is reason to believe that the 2012 growing season will be successful for many North Dakota farmers.

And Woody Barth, president of the North Dakota Farmers Union in Jamestown, agrees.

He said the progress of this year's crops has left most farmers content as they come down the homestretch of the 2012 growing season.

"There is a lot of variability among the state, but I would say most farmers are happy that they had a good spring planting that allowed them to get their crops in the ground early," Barth said. "The crops got off to a good start throughout most parts of the state, and the crops are for the most part still in good shape."

This year's early planting season will allow for an earlier harvest of some crops, possibly as as soon as the end of this month, Barth said.

"I expect there to be a lot of harvesting going on by the end of July, especially in the southern portions of North Dakota, and it would take a lot of much cooler weather in order to change that," he said. "Overall, most farmers enjoy the warmer weather for their crops, especially after the cooler temperatures we had in the earlier part of June this year."

Kurt Froelich, who is the extension agent for the North Dakota State University

Extension Service for Stark and Billings County, said farmers will know more about their yields as harvest begins.

For some farmers, he suspects that the yields won't be as plentiful as they might have hoped.

"Things are burning up, but because of planting dates and previous corp progress and early season moisture that was vairable across the state, it's hard to say things are down X percent," Froelich said.

He also said there is definete need for more rain across North Dakota.

"At this point, we're at the mercy of moisture," Froelich said. "In some cases, if we get more moisture, things may turnaround. All crops, even later crops like corn, may look good but there is some moisture stress when you look closer at the plants."

Mayer, who serves as the North Dakota Corn Growers Association's director for District 7, which includes a large swath of southwest North Dakota, has grown corn every year since 1996.

He said corn is a hardy crop that can withstand the warmer weather the region has experienced lately.

But he does not deny that he and other farmers would not be disappointed to see the rain clouds roll in anytime soon.

"Corn can take the heat better than crops, like canola, but when it starts to get over 90 degrees that can be stressful on corn," Mayer said. "We're at a stage that the crop could use some more moisture though."

A lack of rain and the unseasonably warm temperatures aside, Barth said there are still hurdles farmers may face as the 2012 growing season draws to a close and farmers prepare get in their fields and harvest their cropsfor the year.

Barth said growers who farm alfalfa have already experienced some issues with their crops as they begin to harvest alfalfa across the state/

He said issues having to do with insect contamination of the plants are creeping up in many fields.

"One of the biggest challenges now is that most farmers have started to cut down their alfalfa crops and they have found some insect damage and late season weather condition issues," Barth said. "I think in the last decade, insects and weather have really started to impact the state's alfalfa crops, but there is not much that farmers can really do about either one of those issues when they spot them in their fields."

Weather is one of the issues farmers can't do much about, Barth said.

North Dakota tends to go through a dry spell this time of year, so farmers are not caught too off guard by the lack of

rainfall the area has

experienced lately, he said.

After a several days stretch of no significant rainfall, Barth said pretty much any amount of moisture "would be

well-received" by farmers and growers from across the state who have watches their crops shirvel up in recent weeks as the temperatures have

continued to rise.

"Generally, rain is important for the growth of crops,

especially right now," Barth said. "This year, we've had some dryer periods, which means there is less disease pressure on the crops this year than we have seen in previous years. That could be a good sign of healthier crops to come for farmers in North Dakota."