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Ideal weather boosts harvest

Farmers in North Dakota and Minnesota made big progress for the third consecutive week, as temperatures were well above normal, even into the 60s for a day or two last week.

Farmers in North Dakota and Minnesota made big progress for the third consecutive week, as temperatures were well above normal, even into the 60s for a day or two last week.

The harvest for every crop in the state, save corn, finally is virtually complete, a prospect that didn't look likely six weeks ago during a cool, wet October.

Soybeans were 92 percent harvested by Sunday across North Dakota and 97 percent across Minnesota; normally both would be about 100 percent in the bin by now, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's weekly crop progress report.

Sunflowers were 86 percent harvested in North Dakota by Sunday, after 26 percent of the crop was combined last week; while Minnesota's sunnies, in an unusual reversal of harvest progress between the two states, was 75 percent complete.

Oil content for sunflowers in the two states is averaging just over 43 percent, which is below the five-year norm. A shortage of space in grain elevators, caused largely by the heavy drying schedule necessary this fall for most crops, means some sunflowers are being stored on the ground, according to the National Sunflower Association in Mandan, N.D.

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Sunday was another good harvest day of sunny, warm and dry weather that advanced the harvesting a few percentage points in both states, no doubt. Despite the rain in eastern North Dakota on Monday, the rest of the week is forecast to remain above normal in heat and below normal precipitation.

The corn crop is coming in at high moisture and low test weight, according to farmers. The late planting and cool summer meant the North Dakota corn crop didn't quite mature fully before the first killing frost late last month, which although later than normal, wasn't late enough for a corn crop behind the eight-ball all season long.

Test weights are commonly coming in at 52 pounds per bushel, a significant drop from the corn norm of 56 pounds and one that cuts average yields by a chunk.

The corn moisture levels have come down from the 30 percent mark a week or two ago, to 22 percent to 25 percent in most cases. But that's still an expensive proposition to dry the corn down 10 points or so, losing a little more "shrink" in the process, farmers say.

By Sunday, 21 percent of North Dakota's corn crop was harvested, still far behind the norm of 83 percent by the same date and last year's progress of 50 percent by Nov. 22. But it meant the state's farmers took off 13 percent of the crop in the past week alone.

Minnesota's corn crop was 66 percent harvested by Sunday, compared with 96 percent in a normal year; 23 percent of the state's crop came off last week.

The average moisture level of Minnesota's corn last week was 22 percent, down only 1 percent from the week before and 5 points above the norm.

The warm, dry November has meant that more of the last few acres of potatoes got dug than it looked like a month ago, said Chuck Gunnerson, president of the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association based in East Grand Forks.

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He has no firm data yet, but figures maybe only 2,000 acres of spuds remain in the fields of the greater Red River Valley.

Reach Lee at (701) 780-1237; (800) 477-6572, ext. 237; or send e-mail to slee@gfherald.com

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