Fall crops are drying down across the state after last month’s early frost, with producers becoming nervous about confronting snow in October.
Soybean harvest is beginning in earnest in several regions of the state.
“Harvest is in full swing with many crops yet to be harvested. Canola is mostly done, while soybeans are really going down. I would guess by the end of the week with no rain, soybeans will be close to done,” said Bill Hodous, NDSU Ramsey County Extension agent.
Hodous added edible beans are still in the field, waiting to be harvested.
Soybeans are also being combined in LaMoure County, but there could be losses with soybean yields after wet areas in the spring.
“Yields are better than anticipated in some areas, and as poor as expected in others. The reason for that is most of LaMoure County was drenched for too long earlier this year,” said Julianne Racine, NDSU LaMoure County Extension agent.
Some 20 percent or more of producers with a later-maturing soybean variety are drying beans because the area has received snow on Oct. 10 each of the last two years.
“They don’t want to be harvesting soybeans in December,” Racine said, also noting that corn for grain is drying down nicely.
Other producers across the state are chopping corn for silage.
In Pembina County, Madeleine Smith, NDSU Extension agent, said most of the potatoes are harvested, while soybeans and dry beans are in the process of being harvest with dry beans nearly finished.
Sugarbeets have moved from pre-pile to regular digging.
“The beet campaign starts 24 hours today. No one is waiting – the activity is constant,” Smith said.
Smith said they had several frosts in Pembina County.
“The outside edges of the corn on the headlands did get damaged by frost, but most of what I have seen, once you get further in to the field, the corn was not affected,” she said. “Any soybeans that were still very green (some of the later-planted acres) will also have been affected. However, most of the soybeans were past the most frost-susceptible stage when we got the last frost.”
Smith reminded producers that Pembina is getting very dry.
“We had a combine fire over the weekend, so growers need to be mindful of flammable dust and debris,” she said.
In the western regions of the state, sugarbeets are looking “pretty good despite the current drought situation and combatting the flooding problems that we had last year,” said Devan Leo, NDSU Extension McKenzie County agent.
Corn is being chopped for silage pits for livestock.
“As far as corn goes, this years’ crops were pretty poor. Corn did not flourish this year. But the corn will make good livestock feed as a chopped product,” Leo said.
Wheat, although stunted by drought, looks good.
“I have heard from producers who have had really high proteins in their wheat and also had relatively high test weights,” she said. “The only real concern I saw was that 40 percent or better of the kernels had a shriveled effect. This means the kernels did not fill out due to lack of moisture.”
Canola was harvested earlier than last year in the western regions of the state.
In the northwestern North Dakota, soybeans are being cut, but producers are waiting for sunflowers to dry down more, and are expected to be ready to cut in another couple of weeks.
“We are waiting for sunflowers to dry. At the station (Williston Research Extension Center), soybeans are totally brown and ready for harvest now, but they had started drying out the first week of September due to lack of moisture,” said Clair Keene, NDSU Extension cropping specialist.
At WREC, soybeans were already yellow and starting to drop leaves when the frost arrived the night of Labor Day.
In the region around Ray, there was more rain than in Williston.
“I’ve heard from farmers who still had lush green soybeans on Labor Day and estimate some substantial loss (10-25 percent) due to the early frost,” Keene said. “Where it was dry, beans were not hurt by the frost, but in areas that got summer rain, beans were still green and harvesting of those started just the past few, maybe four, days.”
Keene pointed out that there has been no rain over the past couple of weeks.
“We’ve had little spits, but nothing more than 0.10 inches, so nothing to help in a meaningful way. Unless we get rain in October, it looks like we’re heading into winter in a severe drought,” she said.
According to the National Ag Statistics Service, soybeans are 27 percent harvest; corn at 4 percent; sugarbeets at 16 percent; sunflowers at 6 percent; potatoes at 64 percent; and dry beans at 74 percent harvested.
According to Leo, cattle have been in fair-to-good condition this summer and fall. Cattle prices are just now starting to come up after a dismal year.
“The biting insects have wreaked havoc on the poor four-legged critters this year, but the cool night temps have dropped fly populations significantly,” Leo said. “Water quality conditions were certainly not the best. That being said, I think weaning averages are going to hold strong despite the negatives. Cattle look good and the calves are as expected this time of year.”
Leo said, overall, the drought has taken its toll on everyone.
“The biggest obstacle to overcome now is hoping to have enough feed stores to get them through winter, as most will have to pull cattle off of pastures early,” she said. “There simply isn’t enough grass to sustain them for another few months. If they didn’t stockpile grazing for fall, they will have to start feeding hay earlier than normal this year.”
Travis Binde, NDSU Divide County Extension agent, said some producers do have crop residue after harvest to put cow/calf pairs on and some have cover crops for fall grazing.
“It has been very dry here, which doesn’t help the pastures, but we have been harvesting soybeans and have corn left. Sunflowers still have green in the stems,” he said.