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Most crops weather recent rains

Despite heavy rains that forced water into basements and backed up sewers in Pembina, N.D., and Hallock, Minn., over the weekend, damage to crops was limited to a relatively small area, farmers and agricultural observers said.

Despite heavy rains that forced water into basements and backed up sewers in Pembina, N.D., and Hallock, Minn., over the weekend, damage to crops was limited to a relatively small area, farmers and agricultural observers said.

From 6 to 7 inches of rain fell on the city of Pembina, nearly all of it within about three hours Saturday evening.

From 3 to 4ยฝ inches fell across much of Kittson County in Minnesota.

"We are going to lose a small percentage of acres due to drown-out, and that's mostly low-lying areas and ditches," said Corey Plaine, manager of the CHS Agriservices in Humboldt, Minn., near Pembina.

As fast as the rain came down Saturday, it seemed to run off pretty fast, too, Plaine said.

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"I took a drive around checking fields Sunday morning, and it looked terrible," Plaine said. "But Monday morning it looked way better. It ran off. What's today, Wednesday? There's not much water standing in the fields, just in ditches."

Water draining

Tony Clemm, manager of Wilwand Farms near Pembina, said some of the large operation's fields, on both sides of the Red River, were hit but that most of the acres escaped real damage.

"The water is draining off right now," he said Wednesday. "It's still really wet but a lot of the water has gone down. But there are some places it was on too long and hurt the crop pretty bad."

It's still early to assess the damage, Clemm said.

"Grain sometimes will come back. It will be behind and the yield will be lost, maybe cut in half. As far as beans, they don't take much water. If the water doesn't go down within a day, you can see the whole year, as they grow, they are way behind."

Only a small percentage of American Crystal Sugar Co.'s 133,000 acres of sugar beets in the Drayton, N.D., factory district, were hurt badly by the rain, said Dan Bernhardson, director of ag operations for the Moorhead-based cooperative.

Overall, the grower-owned company remains on target to have 420,000 acres of beets growing; they got in the ground earlier than normal, and the crop looks pretty good, he said.

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While nearly all the small grains, corn, sugar beets, spuds and canola in North Dakota and Minnesota were planted well before Sunday, a significant part -- a third or more -- of soybeans, dry edible beans, sunflowers and flax remain to be seeded in North Dakota.

One thing that helped the crops is that most fields were planted relatively early, Plaine said.

"The crops were farther along, so they can take a little more moisture."

Areas along the Red River and other low areas will see crop kill, Plaine said, "but nothing too devastating right now."

The crops in the ground all looked good or excellent just before Saturday's rains, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's weekly survey of county extension agents.

But there's still much to do.

Only 42 percent of North Dakota's sunflower crop was seeded by Sunday, down from 60 percent in the five-year average for the same date. Soybeans, at 69 percent planted, were behind average, while dry edible beans, at 67 percent, were ahead of the five-year average.

Lesley Lubenow, extension agent in Pembina County, said she heard from farmers and others that the heaviest rain was limited to a relatively small area right in and around the city of Pembina.

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Around Cavalier, N.D., about 1.25 inches of rain fell Saturday, so fields are wet but not wrecked, she said.

Clemm said he's hoping to be in the field again today.

"I still have some to put in. I still have three quarter (sections) of edible beans to put in," he said Wednesday. "I've got one field down south by Drayton (N.D.), I'm hoping tomorrow afternoon I can work it again, and plant it that evening or the next."

There's still time, Clemm said.

"It's still the first part of June. Last year it was wet all spring and we planted some until the 10th, the 15th, of June. So we still can replant some of it."

He's keeping a worried eye on the skies and an ear to the radio weather reports, Clemm said.

"The forecast doesn't look very good; I hope it changes. After Saturday it looks like rain for the next six days."

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

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