A few months after they harvested the 2019 corn harvest, farmers in northeast North Dakota finished combining their 2020 crop.

The weather during most of the 2020 harvest was dry and, in sharp contrast to 2019, farmers in the region had few interruptions from rain or snow.

As of Nov. 1, North Dakota farmers had harvested 84% of their corn acres, more than nine times the 9% they had harvested last year at this time and well above the average of 48%, the North Dakota Agricultural Statistics Service said.

Steve Tveit, of Larimore, N.D., finished his 2020 corn harvest in October, four months after he finished combining the last of his 2019 corn.

“I cleaned up some patches in June,” Tveit said.

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Tveit quit combining corn in November 2019 after heavy rains and snow earlier in the fall muddied his fields so much that they couldn’t support his combine.

“We didn’t go again until March,” Tveit said. He finished most of his 1,300 corn acres by May, except for those scattered acres that he combined in June.

Neither the 2019 nor 2020 corn crops yielded as well as Tveit would have liked. Last year, snow tore cobs off the stalks and this year parts of his fields were drowned out by heavy rains during the growing season.

Though the yields both years were disappointing, the 2020 harvest went much better than last year.

“There’s no comparison,” Tveit said.

After wrapping up the harvest, Tveit has focused on doing the fall work he had to forgo last year.

“Getting fall tillage done, cleaning drains,” he said.

Tveit’s neighbor a few miles to the west, Paul Hofer, finished combining his sunflower crop earlier this week.

“I think this would rank up there as one of the earliest and easiest harvests,” said Hofer, who has farmed since 1985.

Farther north, in Walsh County, N.D., the corn and sunflowers harvests also were essentially finished, said Brad Brummond, NDSU Agricultural Extension agent-Walsh County.

“Quite a difference compared with a year ago,” Brummond said. “It’s the earliest harvest we’ve seen in five years, maybe longer.”

Though 2020 spring planting was delayed by cold temperatures and muddy fields, hot temperatures toward the end of the growing season pushed row crops to maturity, he said.

Corn and sunflowers both generally yielded well in Walsh County; corn yields varied from 130 bushels per acre to 200 bushels per acre, Brummond estimated. Overall, yields averaged from 130 to 140 bushels per acre, he said.

Sunflowers, meanwhile, were averaging more than 2,000 pounds per acre.

“That’s very good,” Brummond said.

The early harvest wrap-up has allowed farmers to get fall work done, he said.

“What’s really positive about this (is) guys have the ability to catch their breath, do some ditching and really set up their land for next year. They’re not getting stuck hauling bales. They’re not pulling combines. They’re not wrecking things because of wet weather. Basically, this is one of the lowest stress falls they’ve had in a long time,” Brummond said.

Instead of battling mud in early November, Hofer was taking his header off of his combine and getting ready to store both in the shed.

After a frustrating 2019 fall, he's is grateful for this year’s harvest season.

“It was so much more relaxing and kind of put the fun back into farming,” he said.