cattle on pasture

Cattle producers in most parts of the state have seen ample grass and water supplies for their cow herds throughout the summer. Photo by Dale Hildebrant

Muddy fields and soggy crops have continued to torment farmers as they work through harvest, and those problems seem to be almost on a statewide basis.

Both Brad Brummond, the Extension agent in Walsh County, in the northeast corner of the state, and Sheldon Gerhardt, his counterpart in Logan County in the south-central part of the state, report muddy field conditions and little harvesting progress being made.

“I was out earlier this morning (Oct. 2) and we have water standing in our potato rows – that’s not good a good thing,” Brummond said. “We have had over six inches total since Sept. 1. (Farmers) tell me they are going to start the beet harvest up on Friday (Oct. 4), but I don’t know how they are going to do that, since I am sure there is water standing in beet rows, too.”

However, the warmer temperatures around Sept. 20 got a lot of the corn in the area out of serious trouble, since it brought the corn closer to maturity.

“I think we are going to have harvestable corn, but we are just going to have to use some heat on it,” Brummond said.

Some of the yield estimates on the early harvested soybeans is in the 35-40 bushel range on the sandy soil and he expects to see some come in the 50 bushel area, while a few fields may come in under 30 bushels.

As far as the corn crop in Walsh County, he figures some of the early planted corn might make 140 bushels per acre and some corn on the heavier soil might make more than that, but we won’t know until corn harvest starts.

The pinto bean crop what he is most concerned about at this time.

“We have about half of our pinto beans still out there and they have had a lot of rain on them,” he said. “Most of the beans are not standing in water, but I don’t know what the quality of those beans is going to be. The beans can get mud smears or discolored from the rain and the quality is so important with edible beans.”

Swinging to the south-central region, Gerhardt said they have had more rain this summer than usual. This resulted in the wheat having more quality issues at the end of the harvest since the period ran so late this year.

The small grain harvest is just about totally wrapped up now and a few have tested out some soybean fields in Logan County.

“Once we get some dry weather, we will be going on the soybeans,” Gerhardt said. “I heard some of the beans were getting in that 15 percent moisture range.”

He expects to see some light test weights for corn this fall once the harvest starts and difficulty in getting the crop to dry down.

“There have been some farmers trying to decide if they should take their corn and chop it for silage or let it stand and harvest it for grain,” he mentioned.

With the lack of harvest figures at this time and a lack of heat units for the rows crops, Gerhardt said it been difficult to come up with tentative yield figures for either corn or soybeans.

Western North Dakota

In the western region of the state, it is turning out to be one of the longest harvests producers have had in a long time.

“Our soils are saturated with some 20 inches of rain over the last couple of months, and there is standing water in the low parts with nowhere to go,” said Devan Leo, NDSU Extension agent in McKenzie County.

That is happening in many parts in the western region, where rainfall has occurred for many days since mid-August and especially, in September.

“We harvest for three days, then it rains and we wait a week to nine days to get back in the field. Then that starts all over again. It has been difficult to finish harvesting,” said Michelle Pulvermacher, who farms with her husband in the northwestern region in Divide County and works in Extension. “We are far behind where we would be in a normal year.”

The same problem is happening up and down the western region and into Montana, where several North Dakota producers have acres on both sides of the border.

Excessive rain is damaging quality and hampering harvest efforts.

Reports of sprouting in the heads of the grain have been widespread throughout the west.

Clair Keene, area Extension specialist in cropping systems at NDSU Williston Research Extension Center, said there is sprouted grain in Williams County.

“Yes, there is a lot of sprouted grain here, but even more in Divide and Burke counties,” Keene said. “Williams got about half of its small grain crop harvested before Labor Day weekend, whereas Divide and Burke were lucky if they got one-third off.”

Grain that didn’t get harvested before it started raining is “likely to have quality issues,” Keene said.

“Williams County was a little luckier to have made more harvest progress before it started raining almost all of September,” she added.

Leo said they have heard from Sidney Sugars that they may start the beet harvest at the end of the first week in October. It has been put off for more than a week due to excessive moisture causing mud and standing water.

“We are waiting to see for sure,” Leo said.

In addition, hay quality is down this year. Producers cut and swathed the hay, but if it was rained on, the quality is not there and supplements will be needed in the winter.

Fall crops have not had enough sun to dry down, although the sun peeks out in the afternoon for a couple of hours.

Leo said there were some soybeans in her county, but the crop needed more sun and warm days to dry down.

Producers know they will have excellent spring moisture, but it is a concern as to whether they will be able to finish cutting crops this fall.

It has been cold since the last two days in September and through Oct. 1, with temps throughout the region down in the 30s and 40s, with some 50s in the afternoons.


Livestock have been doing well with good grass, replenished by good rains.

“Some are thinking about weaning, especially by the end of the month. If it snows, they may have to start bringing them home earlier. But for those with grazing agreements, as long as they have grass, they will keep the cattle out there as long as possible,” Leo said.

There have been reports of Palmar amaranth in the millet fields, documented by NDSU, so those ranchers who have planted millet for hay, or other reasons, are advised to look carefully for it.

NDAWN does not yet have rainfall totals for September.

According to NDAWN, for the week beginning Sept. 22: Berthold recorded .27 inches of rain; Watford City, .20 inches of rain; Williston, .47 inches of rain; Hettinger, .31 inches; Bowman, .43 inches; Bowbells, .27 inches of rain; Mott, .37 inches of rain; Minot, .37 inches; Beach, on the North Dakota/Montana border, .90 inches and Dickinson, .19 inches.

Moving back to the south-central region of the state, the above normal rainfall kept the pastures green all summer in Logan County and also good hay production. But the downside was that it was hard to put the hay up in a timely manner, resulting in quality issues, according to Gerhardt.

“There has especially been a problem with the late, warm season grasses such as sorghum-Sudan grass,” he said. “It grew really well and there is a lot of tonnage to dry down. Putting up good quality hay has been a challenge.”

It was a completely opposite situation in the northeastern part of the state. The area around Walsh County never got a second cutting of alfalfa due to the dry conditions earlier this summer, Brummond explained.

“Our pastures went completely dormant in August, and now with all of this rain the pastures are starting to regrow and look greener again. We got about half the hay we normally get and my farmers are looking for hay. I think they are going to try to feed a lot of straw and I am guessing they are going to be buying hay,” he said.

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