spring planting

With the exception of a few areas, much of North Dakota is need of rainfall to support the crops as they start to grow and increase their need for moisture. One of the areas that did receive good rainfall over the first weekend of June was the Walsh County area in the northeastern part of the state. This had been one of the driest regions in the state, according to Walsh County Extension agent Brad Brummond, and the rainfall was very welcomed.

“Some of the driest areas of the county got an inch and a half of rain on Friday (June 7) and Saturday night, so that really helped. We have areas that got up to three inches, which was more than we wanted, and other areas that received less than a half inch, which didn’t help much,” Brummond said. “So I guess you could call it a mixed bag as far as moisture goes, but the rain cured a lot of problems.”

They have a few pot-holes that haven’t been seeded in Walsh County, but with sunshine and no rain, the crop went in rather quickly and the crops are off to a good start.

“The early crop looks like a million bucks,” he said. “We have some of the nicest looking corn in the country right now.”  

There will be some prevented plant acres in that part of the state and Brummond is encouraging those with cattle to consider planting a crop that can be used for forage rather than going with prevented plant.

“They could raise some really good forages on those lower areas because there is a lot of nutrients there and it tends to be their better land,” he said. “Many of them burned through a lot of their extra hay with the winter we had.”

Finally, canola growers in that part of the state are having to spray for flea beetles and there are some reports of heavy Canadian thistle growth this spring in some areas.

Farmers in and around the Valley City area will also have some prevented plant acres this spring, according to Randy Grueneich, the Barnes County Extension agent. He also used the term “mixed bag,” which in this case he used to describe the spring planting conditions. Some farmers were able to get their crops in at a decent time, while others were forced to do nothing until sometime in May with corn going in the ground the last few days of May. They’re just now finishing up on soybeans.

“There is now a concern that those who were able to get corn in without too much delay, whether or not that corn will be able to mature just because of the cool May we had and the slow start,” he said. “There was also some crusting issues on the early planted crops because of some heavy rain and hail in some cases, which has created some emergence issues, with the growers worried about stand counts.”

One of the things that made this spring’s planting so difficult was the fact that it was a late harvest last fall and the growers were not able to work down the corn stubble.

“So consequently, the fields this spring that had corn on them last year had a really heavy cover of corn residue and that mat laid on the ground and prevented drying,” he said. “Those were their wettest fields and presented a struggle to get planted.”

As a result, he expects a significant amount of prevented plant in the county.  

Western North Dakota

In the southwestern region of the state, Ryan Buetow, NDSU Extension cropping systems specialist at Dickinson Research Extension Center (DREC) said most producers are still wrapping up planting.

“It’s really all over the board. I’ve heard there are some guys that still have many acres left. I saw several people today putting in sunflowers and a couple putting wheat in,” Buetow said on June 10, noting the dryland soybeans have emerged at DREC.

In the northwestern region, a stretch of warm days in the 80s came and went without the rain the southwestern region received.

“It has started to get dry. Hay fields are drying out and we could really use some rain,” said Kyle Dragseth, Foundation Seed and farm manager at Williston Research Extension Center (WREC).

At WREC, spring wheat, durum, pea, and lentils have all emerged and winter wheat is jointing.

Also in the northwestern region in Williams County, Lucas Homes, Extension agent, said producers in the region had finally finished planting.

“We had fluctuating temperatures in April, and cold and rain in May. Last week, we had several days of very warm weather and producers were excited to be able to plant every day,” he said.

Earlier-planted seedlings are coming up.

“I was driving around the county last week and I saw a lot of pulses, spring wheat and durum plants coming up. Everything looks good and producers will be out spraying for weeds now,” Holmes said.

Holmes said some producers are trying the new North Dakota flax variety called N.D. Hammond the year.

“This is the first year the new flax plants got in the ground,” he said. In addition a couple of guys are planting dryland soybeans.

There isn’t have much grain corn in Williams County, because of the short growing season.

“For our guys, if they grow corn, it is for silage,” he said.

Holmes added they could “use some rain” now to get the crops growing well.

Holmes has been on the job since January. He graduated from SDSU in agronomy and then went to NDSU to receive his master’s in agronomy. After that, he spent two years in the Peace Corps, teaching farmers in Zambia how to plant. This is his first position after school and he is enjoying being a county agent and working with producers.

According to NDAWN, for the week ending June 7, Berthold recorded .08 inches of rain; Williston, .19 inches of rain; Hazen, .21 inches; Hettinger, .47 inches; Bowman, .32 inches; Mott, .30 inches; Beach, 1.63 inches; and Dickinson, .21 inches.


Pastures in Walsh County are in tough shape, according to Brummond. Even with the dry conditions last fall, many producers failed to take their cattle off pasture early enough and the pastures were stressed at that time. Then this spring, due to a lack of hay, some producers put their cattle out to pasture before the grass was ready.

“Now we have pastures that are struggling just to re-grow,” he said. “This last rain really helped – most of the areas where my pastures are got an inch and a half of rain. But the pastures are really struggling because the grass was so short and it takes a while to bounce back from that kind of grazing.”

In contrast, pastures in Barnes County are in good shape, according to Grueneich. They had substainal rains last fall and have conditions for some excellent pastures this spring. But anyone with cattle will be hoping for a good hay crop this year to help build feed inventories.

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