Fast start helps crop cope with hot, dry summerIt was a little high in moisture, but the spring wheat Mike Bergeron and Jon Ross began harvesting Monday has done pretty well in this hot, dry summer, partly because they planted it so early.
By: By Stephen J. Lee , Forum Communications, The Jamestown Sun
FISHER, Minn. — It was a little high in moisture, but the spring wheat Mike Bergeron and Jon Ross began harvesting Monday has done pretty well in this hot, dry summer, partly because they planted it so early.
The warm, dry winter and spring made for the earliest start to planting in the Red River Valley in decades and Ross and Bergeron got out before about anyone else, seeding spring wheat on St. Patrick’s Day.
The field planted March 17 won’t be harvested until later this week because it’s a later-maturing seed variety, Bergeron said.
The field they worked on Monday was planted March 22 with Mayville spring wheat seed, a newer variety, they said.
Doing the math using the automatic scale on a grain cart and the computer in the massive 8120 Case IH combine new last year, Bergeron figured the 160-acre field was yielding 53 bushels an acre.
“I was expecting in the mid-40s,” he said. “I’m happy with 53.”
The wheat’s protein content tested at an above-average 15 percent, the weight at 60 pounds and the moisture at 16 percent and falling Monday at the Thompson Farmers Elevator in Fisher. It was the only new grain brought in, said Manager Tom Kraft.
Dry and high
Meanwhile, the drought gripping a growing swath of the nation’s bread basket keeps pushing prices higher, perhaps near record levels for harvest time, when prices typically take a dive as new supplies are expected.
The bid for spring wheat in the elevator in Fisher, in fact, rose 43 cents a bushel Monday afternoon, to $9.18.
Spring wheat prices have risen about 30 percent just since June 1, market watchers report.
More and more, Ross and Bergeron grow wheat as an agronomic rotation, to stifle disease and better prepare the fields for their main cash crops of sugar beets and soybeans.
But it helps if they can make a little money on wheat, too.
Getting it in so early helped the crop reach its critical growth stage before the hottest days of summer hit, mitigating the effects of this year’s drought-like conditions.
Since April 1, the Crookston area has averaged 7.1 degrees above normal temperatures and 3.17 inches below normal rainfall, worse than any spot in Minnesota except the Preston area in the southeast part of the state, according to the National Weather Service.
Bergeron and Ross say their wheat, midway between Crookston and East Grand Forks, has gotten only 1 inch of rain since early May.
They irrigate some fields with water from the Red Lake River that runs just along the south edge of Ross’ farmstead east of Fisher. But the river is the lowest since the drought years of the late 1980s, and state officials likely soon will shut down any irrigation use, Ross said.
Barley and winter wheat harvest started last week in the region, but only 1 percent of the spring wheat in North Dakota and Minnesota was harvested by Sunday, according the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s weekly report.
Still, that’s a week or more ahead of normal.
“Next year, maybe we will have to get it in Feb. 15,” Bergeron joked.
Stephen Lee is a reporter
at the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.