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Mikkel Pates, Forum News Service, Published September 20 2013

Central, southwest ND no longer dry

In its Sept. 9 report, the National Agricultural Statistics Service says western and central parts of North Dakota have been picking up much-needed rainfall.

Spring wheat harvest was 73 percent complete, not far behind the 78 percent average for the date. Barley harvest was 79 percent complete, behind the 91 percent average. Lentil harvest was 68 percent finished, behind the five-year average of 87 percent. All progress was behind last year’s drought-accelerated schedule.

Some places in central and southwest North Dakota have received more than 6 inches of rain in the past month, with none of the western half of the state in drought conditions at all, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Southeast North Dakota is in moderate drought, with the exception of Stutsman County, which is reporting severe drought conditions.

The too wet/dry year

TURTLE LAKE, N.D. – Todd Goven of Turtle Lake and his wife, Mary, farm with their sons, Donnie, 14, and Ben, 12. At harvest, Todd gets a week of help from his brother Greg. Brian Olderness and Rodger Lynne also are key employees.

“Harvest is my favorite season,” Todd says. “We get the whole family out here; I like it.”

This year’s wheat crop varied a lot but was better than Goven anticipated. The harvest was complete around Sept. 13. A rented field the Goven family was cutting Aug. 21 had a wide mix of soils in a small area, so yields were varying considerably within it. Donnie’s yield monitor was ranging from 15 bushels an acre in the gravel spots to 85 to 90 bushels in the draws. Ben was chasing the combines with an 1,100-bushel grain cart.

“We have good head fill, and super-good test weight,” Todd says. “Our protein has been from 14 to low 16s on the high end. The quality is great. That being said, there are the lighter soils within the fields that seemed to take quite a hit, and I think we leached some nitrogen this spring. I think our rooting wasn’t normal because it was saturated for so long, so when we did hit some 85-degree weather, during head fill, I think those areas got compromised. I think it was a combination of too wet in May and June and too hot and kind of dry” later.

Goven says it’s surprising to see how much wheat can yield within a field, but this year’s variance is exceptional.

“You take the average and it’s a much better crop than I thought was here,” Goven says.

Todd is a private pilot and the family has a four-seat Cessna 172 Skyhawk, which – among other things – can be used for parts runs, when necessary, or to get to events such as the Big Iron trade show in West Fargo. Donnie says he wants to go to the University of North Dakota to become a pilot – perhaps become a certified flight instructor, even if he continues to work on the farm.

“It’s too fun not to fly,” he says.

Stopped counting inches

BEACH, N.D. – Jim Weinreis is one of seven brothers in Weinreis Brothers, a company that operates a diversified grain, cattle and feedlot operation, based generally about 10 miles southeast of Golva, or about 25 miles south of Beach.

Agweek found him near Beach, spraying lentils on Aug. 23.

On the crop side, the Weinreises raise winter wheat, spring wheat, durum, oats, lentils and corn. If their feedlot is filled, they also background-feed up to 8,000 head of cattle. They then ship cattle to Dinklage Feedlots in northwest Nebraska to finish to market weight.

“The winter wheat we harvested was exceptionally good for our area – we’ve got 70- to 80-bushel winter wheat,” Weinreis says. Rainfall was so plentiful this summer in Golden Valley County that Weinreis admits he lost track of the totals – maybe 20 inches or more in some areas.

Last fall was on the dry side, but the Weinreises planted a fair amount of winter wheat anyway. “We’re glad that we did, of course, with those kinds of yields,” he says. Test weight was up to 61 pounds per bushel. Protein was approaching 13 percent, which is strong for winter wheat.

Durum was above average, hitting about 65 to 70 bushels per acre. Spring wheat ranged from 55 bushels to 75 bushels. The family has 700 or 800 acres of corn and markets much of it through the cattle.

The lentils had more weed pressure than normal. The lentils might make 2,200 to 2,400 pounds per acre, which is good for the area. They green-chopped the oats for haylage, and that went well. Sunflowers are looking good, and if the frost holds off, Weinreis expects average or better yields.

“You always think grain markets are too low, but fortunately, we’re having some really good yields,” he says.

Weinreis says one of his recent concerns is that a local chemical dealer has not been accepting the 30-gallon chemical drums for refilling.

“We buy a lot of chemical in 30-gallon plastic drums,” he says, and has a system that is geared toward them.

“They have a microvalve that sucks chemical out of the barrels, but because of (Environmental Protection Agency) regulations, the companies have decided they’re not going to take those barrels back and reuse them,” Weinreis says.

He says he goes through up to five or six drums a day, and the change has meant he has to open the drums and get a microvalve that must be screwed in before he can hook it up – causing time and exposure to chemical smells.