Grain harvest brings mixed results around region

A combine finishes up a field west of Minot Aug. 21. Jill Schramm/MDN

Location and timing of seeding weighed into harvest productivity and grain quality in the Minot region this year.

Some parts of the immediate Minot area saw significant yield losses in the range of 40 percent, while farmers to the north fared better and farmers to the south also took a serious blow from the drought.

Chris Gratton, general manager of CHS Garrison, said the small grain crop was about 30 percent of what might be considered an average harvest. Crop quality generally was good, though, with higher protein in the spring wheat, he said.

“Durum quality is always kind of the question. It got a little rain late on it so it lost its color,” he said. “Durum is probably not in as nice a shape.”

The earlier planted crop also benefited from moisture in the soil to get started, while the later seeded crop laid in dry dirt and saw poor germination, Gratton said. Even the earlier crop suffered from the drought, though.

“We just didn’t have the moisture to fill the crop the way it needed to,” he said.

In the immediate Minot area, wheat yields appeared to average 30 to 35 bushels an acre, which compares with 50 to 60 bushels that farmers had been seeing in the past few years, according to Kayla Burkhart, grain division manager at CHS SunPrairie.

Farther from Minot within SunPrairie’s trade region, yields often were better, averaging up to 40 bushels an acre, she said. While yields were spotty from Minot to Lansford, the area north of Mohall to the Canadian border seemed to do much better, she said.

Yields of 10 to 15 bushels an acre also were reported near Minot. How well the grain did often depended on where the scattered rain showers fell this summer, Burkhart said. Early or late season planting made a difference in some cases but not others.

“I would say it did on protein but not yield. Yield was pretty consistent between early and later,” Burkhart said.

Protein was high, up to 17 percent, on the earlier harvested crop in the immediate Minot area. As harvest progressed, protein readings went as low as 13.5 percent. North of Minot, protein content ranged from 10.5 to 16 percent, Burkhart said.

“Seeing some of those lower proteins is a bit of a surprise,” she said. Protein discounts have narrowed, though, due to the amount of high protein crop available for blending.

“It’s made the lower protein a little more marketable and we are sitting at higher prices than we have in past years, too,” Burkhart said.

Dan Mostad, general manager at Berthold Farmers Elevator, agreed protein discount spreads have narrowed, although not as much as might be expected. The anticipation was for higher protein than the average 14.3, although that’s still slightly higher than last year.

“In the area right around Berthold, small grain harvest is a little bit better than expected, given the summer that we have had,” Mostad said. “Our yields were below the last two years on average, but above what guys had thought. Overall, most were pretty happy with how the grain harvest turned out. Quality was excellent on the crop.”

Jered Johnson, assistant operations manager for United Quality Cooperative, Parshall, said there was nothing to be disappointed about in the quality of the wheat, with 15 percent or more protein and heavy test weights.

“The only issue in the crop really was the yield,” he said.

The crop was about two-thirds of what has been typical in recent years, although recent yields have been better than farmers used to see several years ago, he said.

“People had lower expectations going into the fields,” Johnson said. “They thought they would have lower yields.”

The area south of Parshall seemed to be hardest hit by the drought

In the New Town-Parshall area, later seeded grains benefited a little more from late summer rain. Durum also was at an early enough stage to avoid becoming bleached by the rain, and the moisture helped boost test weights, Johnson said.

In the Bottineau area, wheat averaged 14 percent protein, with an average weight of 61 to 62 pounds, said Larry Rapp, merchandiser at Bottineau Farmers Elevator. He said producers harvested a fairly average small grain harvest despite dry conditions, thanks to the amount of subsoil moisture going into the season.

Much of the new crop is going into storage as farmers consider what the markets might do.

Johnson said mills bought up grain in anticipation of a smaller harvest and that’s causing prices to slump or remain flat. He said another uptick in prices likely will come, possibly later in the year, as millers drain their stockpiles.