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Crops remain in the field

Issues linger from wet fall

Kim Fundingsland/MDN Much of this corn field north of Minot remained unharvested in early January due to excessive water that pooled in lower areas of the field.

It was wet last year, especially in the fall when harvest season was getting underway. Then a late November snowstorm swept across much of the Minot area, further adding to an already soggy dilemma facing farmers seeking to get their crops off the land.

Harvest troubles continued into this month. While some crop is still being removed despite the onset of winter, other fields were simply too wet to allow equipment to get the job done. One of the most affected areas is Renville County. While cropland along the Canadian border was particularly hard hit with rain and snow, crops elsewhere suffered too.

“It dips down to Carpio, Berthold and Donnybrook with a lot of crops in the field,” said LoAyne Voigt, Renville County Agent in Mohall. “Conditions were really good through the summer until fall. Then it started raining and never slowed down.”

While the timing of precipitation was a problem for growers, so too was the overall amount. The 23.64 inches of precipitation received in Minot in 2019 was the 7th most in recorded history.

“Old-timers tell me they’ve never seen anything this wet in the fall of the year,” said Voigt.

Others compare conditions in the field to recent memory of 2011, also an exceptionally wet year that saw record flooding occur along the Souris and Missouri Rivers.

In recent days and weeks farmers have been harvesting some corn and sunflowers, crops where the ground was too saturated to permit a fall harvest. The ground was too wet to support large equipment which became bogged down in muddy ground.

Voigt said she was glad Renville County escaped a couple of major snowstorms that struck the eastern part of the state this winter, but notes that the situation for growers is still far below normal.

“There’s still wheat out there, some canola and flax as well,” said Voigt. “They’ve been harvesting some corn the last few weeks. There’s sunflowers still standing too.”

Moisture was not only a problem for getting machinery into the field, it also was an issue for the plants. The moisture content of much of the corn, said Voigt, was over 30%.

“Ideally you want that down to 23-24% for winter storage,” explained Voigt.

Some farmers use dryers to reduce the moisture content in their crops, but with such a high moisture content and cold temperatures, the amount of propane needed to dry crops down is very costly and, in many instances, not very effective.

“You worry about birds doing damage to standing sunflowers too,” said Voigt.

That prospect was echoed by McLean Count Agent Calla Edwards of Washburn who noted that bird damage can be a concern when sunflowers are left standing. However, said Edwards, there’s hope that some of the sunflowers remaining standing in McLean County will find their way to the bin.

“There’s some moisture issues and difficulty getting some of them, but as log as a combine can come through they can get the flowers off,” said Edwards.

Edwards said corn continues to be harvested in McLean County, albeit rather slowly. Some wheat crop has been lost.

“A lot of wheat was left standing because it was so wet and started to sprout, so it wasn’t very good to harvest anyway,” remarked Edwards. “Farmers will probably do something with those fields so they can plant again. It’s not worth harvesting. They’ll probably just plow it under or flatten it.”

An estimated 30% of the small grain crop in McLean County was lost because of late season rains.

“Most of the soybean were harvested but we still have a lot of unharvested corn,” said Edwards. “There’s a lot of sunflowers in the fields too. It’s been somewhat lousy because of the struggles that guys we work with are going through.”