Erratic weather brings ups, downs during harvest for area farmers

The only delay Lenci Sickler saw this week in his family’s spring wheat harvest was a combine that broke down Wednesday.

North of Dickinson, farmers like Sickler haven’t been affected much by the colder temperatures and rain showers that have hindered their counterparts south of town since Sunday.

“We’ve kind of been in a weird pocket here where we’re at,” Sickler said during a phone interview while driving a combine.

In rural Hettinger County between New England and Regent, Jon Stang hasn’t been so lucky.

“We’re shut down for the day,” Stang said.

Water puddles sat in a muddy yard thanks to a quarter-inch of rain that fell the night before, Stang said. He spent much of Wednesday clearing storage by hauling grain to local elevators and moving more out of air-drying bins.

“Getting everything ready so when it’s go time, we can go again,” he said.

It was complete change from a week ago at this time when record and near-record high temperatures in the high 90s and low 100s gave farmers a perfect opportunity to kickstart their harvests.

Today, idle farmers may be able to kick back into gear.

The National Weather Service is forecasting temperatures in the 80s today and in the mid-90s Friday before cold returns Saturday with highs forecast in the 60s with rain showers. It’s expected to be warm next week.

If it heats up and dries out over the next two days, crops that are ready to be harvested will be lopped off quickly, Southwest Grain General Manager Delane Thom said.

“That’s the best thing that could happen to the wheat crop, hot and dry, and get it done,” he said.

For the most part, Thom said the spring wheat and durum crops in southwest North Dakota are “as good as can be expected,” but they could definitely use hot temperatures to get that crop in the bin or to market.

“I talked to some producers today, just to kind of get a feel,” Thom said on Wednesday. “I don’t think we’re halfway through the spring wheat harvest yet. It kind of peaked, tailed off here for the moment. We get some high temps and we’ll get back in the swing of it.”

Sickler said being able to harvest the past few days have helped him chip away at his crop, with about 3,000 acres of spring wheat cut and 4,000 to go.

He said a later start to the planting season helped the stars align to keep them in the field throughout the cooler weather this week.

“We were still wet,” he said. “This hot weather, everything ripened up real fast.”

Stang said some farmers around the Regent area are cutting canola while they wait for the remaining wheat and durum to dry out. “Other than that, there’s a lot of combines sitting around waiting for the sun and wind,” he said.

Author: Dustin Monke

Former newspaper editor. Now I market the best baked goods and donuts in America. But every once in a while, I write a cool story too.

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