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Helmut Schmidt, Published September 08 2010

Pouring it on: Metro area picks up nearly 2 inches of rain in 24-hour period

Wet fields slowed the early beet harvest for American Crystal Sugar and temporarily halted it for Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative, co-op officials said Tuesday, a day after soaking rains gave the Red River Valley anywhere from 1 inch to nearly 2.5 inches of moisture.

Minn-Dak, based in Wahpeton, N.D., planned to resume harvesting today, Communications Manager Chris DeVries said.

Crystal had three stations running in the Drayton, N.D., area Tuesday, and looked to resume the prepile harvest in the southern end of the valley on Thursday, provided there is no significant rain, said Dan Bernhardson, director of agriculture.

“They’ll have to see if the fields have firmed up enough” to handle harvest equipment, he said.

Crystal, based in Moorhead, has enough beets on hand to run its factories for four days, Bernhardson said. Minn-Dak’s Wahpeton factory has enough beets to process without slowing through this week, DeVries said.

Record rains for Monday’s date fell in Fargo and soaked much of North Dakota, with new marks also set in Bismarck, Minot and Dickinson, according to the National Weather Service in Grand Forks.

In Fargo-Moorhead, the showers come on top of above-normal precipitation in every month since last December.

More rain is in the forecast, starting with 20 percent tonight and increasing to 50 percent Thursday night.

Showers and thunderstorms are likely Friday, the NWS predicts, before the weekend gives way to sunny skies.

John Brainard, a beet farmer in the Ada/Twin Valley, Minn., area, hopes for a dry spell before the main harvest.

“If it keeps raining, it will be wet again for harvest. We’ve done that for the last two years,” Brainard said. “It slows everything down, and it’s harder on our equipment.”

Other crops being harvested now are potatoes and dry edible beans, said North Dakota State University Extension Engineer Ken Hellevang.

“Wet fields are a major concern, because you don’t want wet potatoes to go into storage,” he said.

Dry edible beans are susceptible to staining or discoloring, which affects their price, Hellevang said.

Most of the region’s wheat and canola is in the bin, said Hellevang and Randy Nelson, Clay County’s University of Minnesota extension educator. Corn and soybeans are a couple of weeks away from harvest, they said.

“I think, overall, we’re in pretty good shape,” Nelson said. “Again, I think the beet growers, right now, are probably the ones hurting the most.”

Tom Lilja, executive director of the North Dakota Corn Growers Association, said the rain won’t affect that crop.

“The corn growers have been very happy with the current growing season thus far,” Lilja said.

The rain was a valuable boost for soil moisture in the western half of North Dakota, Hellevang said.

Both of the big beet co-ops plan to start harvesting in earnest on Oct. 1. Sugar content looks good so far, Bernhardson said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583