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Published July 22 2010

As harvest approaches, things looking ‘really good’

Darin Anderson arrived home Tuesday night from scouting his fields near Valley City, N.D., and told his wife the crops were looking “phenomenal.”

Then the phone rang: His corn, soybeans and wheat may have been hit by hail.

Luckily, they weren’t, but it reminded the North Dakota Corn Growers Association president not to jinx the bumper crop just around the corner.

“You’re kind of walking on eggshells here,” he said. “Things look really good.”

Early planting, warm weather and timely rains have area fields shaping up nicely, giving farmers and elevator managers optimism about fall harvest.

As of Monday, more than 80 percent of the barley, corn, durum, soybeans, spring wheat and sugar beets in Minnesota and North Dakota were rated in good to excellent condition, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service’s weekly report.

“There’s a potential for very good yields,” said Dale Siebert, North Dakota State University Extension agent in Richland County.

At Maple River Grain & Agronomy in Casselton, N.D., grain merchandiser Alex Richard said he’s heard buzz about this fall’s crop potentially being one of the best ever.

While he’s not ready to make any bold predictions, Richard said “pretty much everything looks good.”

Some late-planted soybeans are a bit short and behind schedule, he noted.

“But beyond that, I mean, everything kind of looks like a garden out there,” he said.

Crop prices aren’t looking too bad, either. Corn rallied this week past $3 a bushel, soybean prices are still above $9 a bushel and cash bids for hard red spring wheat were hovering at about $5.25 to $5.50 a bushel on Wednesday.

However, the cost of fertilizer and other inputs also has increased, which offsets higher yields, said John Kringler, Cass County Extension agent.

“You’re going to break even or make some. You aren’t going to get rich on it, I’m sure,” he said of the upcoming harvest. “But a lot of that depends on where we end up on yield and price, of course, and the potential for a good yield is there right now.”

Winter wheat harvest is ramping up this week in the southern Red River Valley. Richard said farmers were reporting yields of 65 to 80 bushes an acre at 9 to 11 percent protein, slightly better than last year’s healthy crop.

Low protein content was an issue last year, resulting in discounted prices paid to growers, and they’re hoping protein will be higher this fall, Kringler said.

Spring wheat harvest is expected to start in the southern valley in seven to 10 days, officials said.

A Grandin, N.D., grower began taking off barley on Tuesday, said Randy Brag, manager at Valley Grain Services in Casselton.

“There’s a lot of stuff that looks like it’s ready to go,” but frequent rain showers are delaying progress, he said. “We need some dry weather.”

Barley harvested so far has been “excellent,” with good weight, color and malting quality, he said.

More than half the corn crop was tasseling in the Valley City area, Anderson said. The crop is at least three weeks ahead of last year’s late crop, which forced him and many other corn growers to harvest in the spring, he said.

Soybean maturity also is ahead of recent years in the Hillsboro area, said Dana Kaldor, District 5 representative for the North Dakota Soybean Growers Association.

So far, growers haven’t found many soybean aphids, which have plagued crops on and off for the past five years, he said. The soybeans he sprayed Wednesday were over knee-high and full of flowers, he said, echoing the impression of so many others.

“They look really good,” he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528