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Forum News Service, Published March 28 2014

ND winter wheat looking good despite harsh winter

FARGO – At least one factor can be considered an early indication that North Dakota’s winter wheat crop might be surviving better than some people expected, considering the harsh winter, according to Blake Vander Vorst, senior agronomist with Ducks Unlimited.

DU has been advocating for the past 15 years for farmers to increase the use of winter-planted crops to help foster waterfowl nesting habitat. Vander Vorst says a group of samples he’s collected have survived almost 100 percent so far in a wide area in western North Dakota.

Vander Vorst pulled four winter wheat samples in a drive from Velva to Butte and to Wilton. On Feb. 12, he conducted a test in which the plants are placed in a bag that is filled with carbon dioxide. The plants are trimmed to encourage growth, which can be seen within a few hours.

“Our Wilton research site is in canola stubble and had good snow cover and (showed) 100 percent survival,” he says, adding they had green leaves emerging the next day.

The other three fields Vander Vorst checked were prevent-plant fields with the samples taken from “dry knobs or wind-swept slopes that all had desiccated top growth and likely open to the winter elements,” he says.

He collected 10 to 20 plants at each location. After the overnight bag test, those three samples had 40 percent, 80 percent and 90 percent growth and survival percentages.

“That’s way better than I would have expected,” Vander Vorst says.