hay baling pic

Despite getting off to a slow start this spring, the small grain crops in Benson County are looking good at this time, according to Scott Knoke, Benson County Extension agent in Minnewaukan, N.D.

“Our small grain crop is nearly made if we get one more shot of rain,” Knoke said. “But our corn and soybeans are going to need moisture into August, off and on, to make sure that crop goes. We are not going to have a real bumper soybean crop due to a late start and a lack of heat units. We could end up with some high-moisture corn if the heat units don’t get here.”

He also noted that the dry bean fields in his area are looking wonderful right now when compared to the soybeans.

Because of the dry soil conditions this spring, growers in the Benson County area will have few prevented plant acres this year to contend with, and since Palmer amaranth has been detected in the area, Knoke is urging all growers to scout their fields for this new and potentially dangerous invasive weed.

The hay crop will be below normal this year, according to Knoke. Some of the first cutting of alfalfa has now been put up and there is some still in the swath.

“Hopefully this won’t be an extended period of rain (precipitation that fell on July 8-9) and we can get that hay put up in a timely fashion before it loses too much quality,” he said. “I would say we are going to have a less than average hay crop just because of the dryness and early cool weather.

“The pastures are a little shy of growth, but guys are trying to manage that by not releasing the cattle to go out for grazing too early and some rotational grazing.”

Meanwhile, growers in the southeastern corner of the state, in Ransom County, are hoping they can get a break from a steady pattern of rain.

“It seems like it rains every three or four days around here,” said Brian Zimprich, the Extension agent in the Lisbon area. “Guys are struggling to get out in the fields and do any spraying and haying right now, so I am not sure how much fungicide actually got put down on the small grains.”

Up until the heavy rain event on the evening of July 8, the small grains had been looking good, but the storm resulted in a lot of lodging and it remains to be seen how much of the crop will come back up.

The corn is also behind normal in its development and Zimprich said heat units need to be made up in the next few weeks or hope for a late fall for corn maturity.

“The soybeans are starting to pop now, but we should be a lot further along than what we are in a typical year,” he said. “The soybeans are probably struggling the most right now, but hopefully we will start to catch up here.”  

There is a considerable amount of prevented plant acres in the county, according to Zimprich, especially when you go east and south of Lisbon. Many growers are looking to plant some cover crops on those prevented plant acres.


Looking at the livestock producers, Zimprich said many of the pastures were hit hard this spring because the cattle needed to get out and the grass wasn’t growing due to cool weather, and that makes it questionable how long those pastures will last into the fall.

“If we can get some late season grazing on some cover crops, that is really going to help us,” he noted. “Plus, if we can get in there and do some haying, that is going to help the producers going into winter with some hay.”

Western North Dakota

In western North Dakota, conditions are highly variable from the northwest down to the southwest part of the state.

Producers are entering mid-July, a time when rain spigots can shut off. But in this unusual year, it could also be a continuation of timely rainfalls. Only time will tell.

In Burke County, Dan Folske, NDSU Extension ag and natural resource agent, said the crops are not doing very well in his northwestern county, but there are chances for crops to take off and recover with the recent rainfall.

“We missed the earlier spring rains. Last fall, we had rains post-harvest, which replenished the topsoil for spring cropping, but we had little snow this winter,” Folske said.

This spring, there was little rain to help the new seedlings as they emerged from the soil.

However, moisture the first week of July is picking up the condition of hayland and crops. Bowbells received a half-inch of rain July 1, but 10 miles away, only .10 inches rain fell, and in the western part of the county, some .25 inches rain was reported.

“We were starting to go brown with our grass hay very thin and very short, and our crops are short,” he said. “But the rain this past weekend has been greening things up and now the grass in the pastures is actively growing.”

June is usually the beginning of haying in the western region of the state.

“What little haying is going on, the fields are thin, and there’s not much hay,” Folske said. “If guys put in sorghum-sudan or millet, that’s the best chance for good forage.”

Burke County is well known for its top canola production, and some canola is just starting to flower.

“In fields, some producers are finding their canola in two or three different growth stages depending on when the moisture arrived,” he said.

Winter wheat is in the flowering stages of development or beyond throughout the western region.

There are a few pockets of moderate-to-high scab risk existing for flowering susceptible wheat varieties in western North Dakota.

Scab risk will likely remain elevated or may even increase in the coming days. Conditions that favor scab include prolonged periods (2-3 days) of high humidity, frequent rain events and warm temperatures.

In Bowman County, Max Robison, NDSU Extension ag and natural resource agent, said some producers are planting cover crops in prevented plant acreage.

“We are mostly done with planting. Planting dates for insurance are passed, and those that missed those dates are trying a cover crop,” Robison said. “What I’ve seen for crops, there are a lot of ups and downs. I saw a nice field of wheat next to a pasture and the wheat looked good. Canola looks good.”

Producers in this county plant corn for silage and grain, and they also plant sunflowers.

“What I’ve seen of sunflowers and corn, they look okay,” he said.

Canola is starting to bloom throughout the southwestern counties.

The southwest had a long stretch of days in the 80s with very little rain, but the weather for the first two weeks in July gave a chance of rain nearly every day with high temperatures.

Haying is going strong in Bowman and other counties in the western region.

According to Ryan Buetow, NDSU Extension cropping systems specialist at Dickinson Research Extension Center, plant stress from acidic soils and aluminum toxicity is becoming more visible in their lime trial near Dickinson.

According to NDAWN, for the week beginning June 23, Berthold recorded 1.19 inches of rain; Bowbells, 1.57 inches of rain; Dunn (Killdeer), .06 inches of rain; Watford City, .72 inches of rain; Williston, 1.35 inches of rain; Hazen, .34 inches; Hettinger, 2.34 inches; Bowman, .15 inches; Mott, .12 inches; Minot, 2.04 inches; Beach, on the North Dakota/Montana border, .36 inches and Dickinson, .40 inches.