Parts of Southwest N.D. on Cusp of Grain Harvest

Kelly Herberholz made the first cut of this year’s harvest a week ago.

Since then, he and his father, Joe, have slowly been chipping away at their crop throughout central and western Hettinger County. Kelly estimates they have at least 300 acres done and that much of their spring wheat is running between 35 and 45 bushels an acre.

“We need more than that though,” he said with a short laugh.

Southwest North Dakota farmers are on the verge of what appears to be an above-average small grains harvest in a year where prices are well below average.

“There’s some good-looking crop out there. Now if we could just get a price for it,” CHS Southwest Grain General Manager Delane Thom said Friday. “A 50-bushel spring wheat crop is barely a break-even number.”

On Friday, 14 protein spring wheat closed at $3.85 a bushel at the Southwest Grain terminal near Taylor. Milling quality durum was $5.90.

As farmers like Herberholz are quietly chipping away at their spring wheat crop in Hettinger County — where the wheat is furthest along — he and others say and are awaiting higher temperatures this weekend that could turn a crop nearly ready to cut into one that’s falling into the hoppers of combines throughout the area.

“If the sun would come out, I think we’d all go,” Herberholz said.

This weekend — with temperatures forecast in the high 80s and low 90s, with a chance of thunderstorms on Sunday evening — could go a long way toward getting farmers in the field.

Tom Snell, who runs Snell Harvesting of Ellinwood, Kan., has 18 combines in Regent ready to go whenever the wheat is. He said they took a couple of their John Deere harvesters out north of the small town on Friday to try areas for one client.

Snell said he has seen some good crops throughout the Great Plains this summer and while this year’s North Dakota crop isn’t going to be a “bin buster,” he believes it’ll be a good one. And he wants to help get it off the field and into those bins as soon as possible.

“When it’s getting this close we’re no different than a farmer,” Snell said. “As quick as you can, you want to get going.”

Thom said he recently drove through much of southwest North Dakota.

He said crops didn’t fare well along the Highway 12 corridor between Bowman and Lemmon, S.D.

“It’s extremely dry down in that country,” Thom said. “A lot of that crop was rolled up for hay because the hay crop was short. The further north you get of that line, the better it looks.”

He estimates that five major hail events during the summer took out anywhere between 30,000 to 50,000 acres of cropland throughout the area, all the way from Scranton to Glen Ullin and, of course, north to Killdeer, where a devastating storm ripped through the Dunn County city and surrounding countryside on July 10.

Thom said crops north of Interstate 94 are at least three weeks away from being ready to harvest.

“Where it hailed it out, it hailed it out,” he said.

Thom said that in recent weeks, many farmers have been selling year-old wheat at his elevator in what he says is effort to clear storage space.

“There has been a fair amount of old crop movement, of wheat specifically,” he said. “That’s kind of an indicator that there’s got to be a pretty normal crop out there.”

Farmers aren’t the only ones preparing for harvest, however.

Mick Lewton, store manager of West Plains Implement in Dickinson, said his business has done about all it can do to prepare for one of the busiest parts of its year. He said the Case IH ProHarvest support team is also mobilized at the shop.

“It takes a little while to prepare for, but we’re about as good as we’re going to get right now,” Lewton said.

Tales of a typical North Dakota harvest

Combining south of New England.

Harvest in North Dakota can be a time of celebration, frustration and, if you get the crop in the bin or to the elevator, pure relief.

Once the crop is cut, there are no more worries about hail, thunderstorms or any other force of nature that can upset the fragile plants on which farmers’ livelihoods hinge. The stuff that makes the money is finally off the field and safely stored.

I spent eight of the last 12 days in August on what amounted to be a working vacation as I helped my dad and brother harvest their durum, spring wheat and canola crop. For those of you who don’t know my family or I, Monke Farms is located just west of the Enchanted Highway about 20 miles south of Gladstone and we farm land throughout northwestern Hettinger County.

Though my job here at The Press made me miss the start of harvest — my favorite part — I was able to experience more of it this year than I have since my first year of college.
Now any farmer will tell you that harvest doesn’t happen without hiccups. Ever.

This year wasn’t too bad though.

Continue reading “Tales of a typical North Dakota harvest”

Holding on until harvest: Crop outlook in southwest ND good despite late harvest projections

A field of durum south of New England, still almost completely green, is shown in early August.

The same fields that were being harvested on this day last year are lusher today in most parts of southwest North Dakota, and most are just barely showing signs of ripening.

Despite late planting and below-average July temperatures — including one overnight when southwest North Dakota neared frost-like conditions — grain crops in the area look good and have producers anxiously hoping the weather cooperates for another three to four weeks until it’s ready to harvest.

“It’s the old, ‘You never know until it’s in the bin,’” Scranton Equity grain manager Mike Wedwick said. “But things look good.”

Continue reading “Holding on until harvest: Crop outlook in southwest ND good despite late harvest projections”