Dust is billowing out behind combines as northeast North Dakota and northwest Minnesota farmers feverishly work to get their spring wheat crop harvested.

In Grand Forks County, farmers have finished combining most of their wheat acres, said Katelyn Hain, NDSU Extension agricultural and natural resources agent-Grand Forks County, who noted a stretch of dry weather last week allowed producers to make good progress.

“I would guess we’re pretty close to finished,” Hain said on Monday, Aug. 31.

Wheat yields vary greatly, depending on the amount of rain that fell earlier this summer.

“It’s kind of been all over the place,” said Hain, noting she’s heard reports of per acre yields as high as 90 to yields as low as half of that.

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The lower yields may have been caused by a cold, wet spring that delayed planting beyond the optimum date, hot temperatures during wheat flowering or a combination of both, Hain said.

One part of the county where wheat planting saw the most delays this spring was western Grand Forks County.

There, early harvest reports are that yields vary from 50 to 70 bushels per acre, said Tyler Stegman, general manager of Columbia Grain International in Arvilla, N.D. Overall, they likely will be lower than average, he said.

Harvest progress in Stegman’s trade area has been slower than in other parts of the county, he said.

“We haven’t handled a heck of a lot of it,” Stegman said, on Monday, Aug. 31

“It’s all this humidity. It doesn’t burn off throughout the day,” Stegman said.

Samples brought into the elevator last week tested above 14% moisture.

Windy conditions this week should help dry the grain and speed up progress – unless showers pop up, according to Stegman.

Statewide in North Dakota 59% of the wheat crop was harvested as of Sunday, Aug. 30, according to National Agricultural Statistics-North Dakota. This year's harvest progress was ahead of last year on that date, when 47% of the crop had been harvested, but behind the average of 75%.

About half of the wheat in Walsh County has been harvested, said Brad Brummond, NDSU agricultural extension agent. Most of the harvesting was done east of Highway 32, and Brummond expected farmers west of the highway to be harvesting this week.

“The crop looks good. I think most of the guys have been pleasantly surprised with the yields," said Brummonds, noting that test weights are 60 pounds per bushel or higher and protein levels are better than last year.

Across the Red River in Minnesota , a lot of wheat fields in Pennington and Marshall counties have been harvested during the past two weeks, said Bill Craig, agricultural services director.

Statewide in Minnesota, farmers made rapid progress harvesting last week, combining nearly one-third of the crop as of Aug. 30, according to National Agricultural Statistics Service-Minnesota. The harvest, overall, was 85% percent complete, which was 17 days ahead of last year’s progress and one day ahead of average.

Farmers in Marshall and Pennington counties were looking at a mixed bag of yields, Craig said.

“I've heard of some horrible yields and some decent yields,” said Craig, pointing to poor yields in areas where heavy rains fell during the summer and drowned out the crop. For example, in the hardest hit fields east of Stephen, Minn., in Marshall County yields were as low as 25 bushels per acre.

Overall, Craig called it a mediocre wheat crop for Marshall and Pennington counties..

“Nobody is bragging,” he said.

The wheat crop in the trade area of CHS in Drayton -- which includes elevators in Pembina County, N.D., and Kittson County, Minn -- yields also have varied, depending on where heavy rains fell, said Harold Weimer, CHS-Drayton general manager.

“Where it wasn’t too wet, you’ve got pretty good yields and where water sat, 10 to 15 bushels per acre,” Weimer said. “Yields aren’t as good as last year.”

This year, however, wheat quality is better than it was last year, Weimer said.