Weather boosts harvest: Favorable mid-September conditions helped wheat harvest

GRAND FORKS -- Upper Midwest farmers needed the middle of September to be warm and dry. That's what they got. Now they need more of the same in late September and early October.

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Press Photo by April Baumgarten A farmer drives his combine under the Super Moon on Sept. 8 as he dumps grain into a grain cart south of Belfield. Farmers tried to harvest as late and fast as possible before the rain shut them down in mid-September. Unusually high temperatures later in the month helped harvesters get crops off the field.

GRAND FORKS - Upper Midwest farmers needed the middle of September to be warm and dry. That’s what they got. Now they need more of the same in late September and early October.


"A longer stretch of warm, dry weather would really be beneficial," said Liz Stahl, University of Minnesota Extension crop educator. She’s based in Worthington, in southwest Minnesota.


Widespread rains in the first half of September delayed wheat harvest across the Upper Midwest. Many wheat farmers were far behind their normal harvest pace by Sept. 15.



But generally favorable conditions in the week of Sept. 15 and early in the week of Sept. 22 allowed some farmers to finish and others to catch up partially.


"They’ve been going like crazy," Irene Graves, North Dakota State University Extension Service agent in McLean County, said of wheat farmers in her county.


McLean County is in west-central North Dakota.


Though wheat harvest went slowly initially, "We’re getting close to the end. There’s light at the end of the tunnel," she said.



She notes, however, that some unharvested wheat is breaking down, making it difficult to combine.


The National Agricultural Statistics Service, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, updated harvest numbers Monday, stating that 91 percent of North Dakota spring wheat was harvested, up from just 64 percent two weeks ago. Even so, that rate still trailed the five-year average of 91 percent harvested by Sept. 22.


Farmers in southwest North Dakota, where planting was delayed by an exceptionally wet spring, have been particularly concerned about slow going progress this harvest season.


Only 25 to 30 percent of small grains in North Dakota’s Stark and Billings counties were harvested by the middle of September, estimates Kurt Froelich, the two counties’ extension agent.



By the week of Sept. 22, in contrast, "There’s more stubble than standing grain," he said.


Continued favorable weather would allow farmers in his area to further narrow the harvest gap, he said.


Rest of the region


In Montana, farmers had harvested 81 percent of their spring wheat on Sept. 22, up from 73 percent a week earlier. Farmers in the state normally have harvested 85 percent of the crop by Sept. 22.


The spring wheat harvest is wrapped up in parts of the state, but remains behind schedule in others, said Matt Flikkema, president of the Montana Grain Growers Association. He farms in Manhattan, in west-central Montana.


Favorable mid-September weather is allowing Montana farmers to make good progress in planting winter wheat, he notes.


In South Dakota, 97 percent of spring wheat was harvested by Sept. 22; normally, the state’s entire crop is harvested by then.


Most of this year’s delays in wheat harvest have come in a few wet pockets, said Reid Christopherson, executive director of the South Dakota Wheat Commission.


Related Topics: WEATHER
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