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Weather could dampen harvest momentum

A beautiful weekend marked by high temperatures got southwest North Dakota's wheat harvest rolling, farmers said Monday. But, the momentum likely won't last long as frost-producing temperatures and rain in the forecast for the next three days loo...

1076422+0909 Harvest 1.jpg
Press Photos by Dustin Monke Gary Moore, front, cuts a field of Brian Neurohr’s on Monday afternoon near Gladstone.

A beautiful weekend marked by high temperatures got southwest North Dakota's wheat harvest rolling, farmers said Monday.

But, the momentum likely won't last long as frost-producing temperatures and rain in the forecast for the next three days look to slow the already-late production season.

"It's finally feeling like harvest," Elgin-area farmer Harlan Klein said with a laugh on Monday afternoon. "It sounds like that's going to change tomorrow."

Tony Merriman, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Bismarck, said a cold front moving south out of Canada will put high temperatures in the 40s and 50s through Thursday with around a quarter-inch of rain expected Tuesday and frost-producing overnight and early morning temperatures expected through Friday.

"Fall is coming," Merriman said.

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And it's coming at the wrong time for some farmers, who've already had to wait patiently for crops -- specifically wheat and durum -- to ripen after a late planting season was lengthened by significant August rainfall, some of which hurt crops planted early.

Klein said he had some winter wheat and early spring wheat sprout damage brought on by the August rain. He also has at least one field of winter wheat he can't get to yet because the ground was so saturated.

"I don't know what it's going to be like," Klein said.

The wheat quality is fine, but not above average, Klein said. His wheat test weights have been strong, around 59 to 61 pounds, but the protein level is low.

"Normally, we'll run around 14," he said. "We've had it anywhere from 11.5 to 14 (protein), which was the high."

Nonetheless, much of the wheat that's been taken to market at places like Southwest Grain's Taylor terminal is good, general manager Delane Thom said.

"I think in the last couple days -- over the weekend I should say, with the sun coming out -- I think we hit full throttle," Thom said. "It seems like the activity have really picked up."

He said Southwest Grain's terminals in Taylor, New Salem and Lemmon, S.D., have unloaded a combined 500 trucks a day in the past couple of days, a number that doesn't include the cooperative's nine area elevators.

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Thom echoed Klein and said one of the biggest complaints he has heard from farmers is getting machinery in and out of wet fields.

"We're hearing a lot of issues where the farmers are stuck with their combines or having to haul it out to the road with a grain cart," Thom said.

Jon Wert of rural New England farms in both Hettinger and Stark counties and said he switched from wheat to canola on Monday in an effort to get it out of the fields before the weather turns sour.

Area canola crops took a hit after windy days in the past couple of weeks, Wert said. However, he said shelling damage wasn't as bad as he had anticipated once he got into the field.

"We have about two days left of canola that we want to get to before the weather changes," said Wert, the president of the Northern Canola Growers Association.

"Things are starting to mature quite a bit. If this weather would hold out, we could really keep moving."

Related Topics: WHEATAGRICULTURE
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