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Dave Olson, Published August 11 2013

Area farmers enter 'critical juncture': Late start, cool/dry summer may ding some crops

Casselton, N.D. - Farmers in Cass and Clay counties know this year’s late spring planting caused by cool, wet weather could put them in a bind come autumn.

And though the first hard freeze remains weeks away, at least one grower worries time may be running out for a good crop.

“It’s getting to be a critical juncture,” said Bob Runck Jr., who grows corn and soybeans north of Casselton. “Without a weather pattern change or we get some moisture, the crop is going to deteriorate pretty quick.”

The problem: Lower-than-normal temperatures aren’t allowing crops to continue their maturation process during the night and dry conditions that Runck said have put crops in a holding pattern.

“We need the rain and then we need the heat,” he said, adding that if conditions don’t improve, quality and yields will suffer.

Given how things are going, Runck said this year’s crop could turn out to be a 5, based on a scale of 1 to 10.

In contrast, the 2012 crop was a 9, he said.

Still, 2013 could turn out well for many growers, said John Kringler, a Cass County Extension agent. He said when it comes to corn and soybeans – two of the major crops planted in Cass County – some farmers got their crops in the ground in a timely manner.

He said those who were forced to plant late due to wet or cool conditions are hoping for a long growing season and a killer frost that doesn’t arrive until well into October.

Corn appears to be doing better than soybeans, Kringler said.

“Some (soybean growers) put in extremely late, so they’re struggling.”

Room to grow

Kringler said there is time for conditions to turn around.

“We’re in need of some nice weather for a while in order to get all the crops off, but at this point I would say we’re in pretty good shape,” he said.

Randy Nelson, an Extension educator in Clay Count, agreed.

“I would say the crops look pretty decent,” he said.

“Yes, they were in late, but the farmers held off until their fields were in good enough condition to go out there. They weren’t out there muddying it in.”

Nelson said with some good late summer and early fall weather, farmers could come through the harvest with only minor dings in yield.

And that would be something, given the moisture picture early in the year.

Readings taken at Hector International Airport in Fargo over the first six months of 2013 were the wettest on record, with 20.63 inches of rain and melted snow.

Wet, wet, wet

That number was nearly 2 inches more than the previous record set in 2000.

By comparison, 7.42 inches of moisture was recorded in the first half of 2012.

Most of the rain in the first half of this year fell in May and June, when 14.89 inches were recorded.

That is more than what fell during all of 2012.

Although July and early August have been relatively dry, Runck isn’t thinking “rain” too hard, given nature’s potential to swing from one extreme to another.

“You gotta be careful what you ask for,” he said.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555