GILBY, N.D. — Depending on how you look at it, this is either the latest or the earliest Greg Amundson has ever combined corn.
Amundson was in a field southwest of Gilby on Monday, Jan. 6, chipping away at his last 200 acres of corn. Rain and snow made the field too wet to harvest during the fall of 2019, so he was forced to extend his efforts into the new year.
“We’re two months into a two-week corn harvest,” Amundson said.
He started harvesting his 1,600 acres of corn Nov. 8, 2019. Before the historically wet harvest of 2019, the latest he had ever finished harvesting corn was Dec. 8, said Amundson, who has been farming for about 20 years.
Harvesting corn in snow 2 feet deep is hard on equipment, he acknowledged Monday as he stood in the field waiting for his trucks to fill.
“We’ve had some expensive repairs,” he said.
Meanwhile, it takes longer to harvest when it’s cold because all of the equipment has to be driven to the farmstead each night and plugged in so it will start the next day.
“It takes an hour to get everything running in the morning,” Amundson said.
However, he believes harvesting in January is a better alternative than leaving the corn in the field over the rest of the winter. The ground already is saturated, and with spring snowmelt and rains, it could be as late as July before the ground will support his combine, tractor, grain cart and trucks, Amundson said.
While the corn field he was harvesting wasn’t yielding as well as he would have liked, and the crop, which had a moisture content of 21%, may cost more than it’s worth to dry, Amundson was looking forward to being done with the harvest and to putting the 2019 farming season behind him.
“Most definitely,” he said.
Amundson said he hoped to wrap up the harvest on Tuesday, Jan. 7.
If he does, he will be in the minority among North Dakota’s corn farmers.
Statewide, as of Jan. 2, North Dakota farmers had harvested 48% of the corn they planted in spring 2019, the National Agricultural Statistics Service-North Dakota said. About 2.1 million of the 3.7 million acres that farmers planted in spring 2019 remain in the field.
In Grand Forks County, there’s a significant amount of unharvested corn, said Katelyn Hain, NDSU Extension Agent, Grand Forks County.
Issues such as combines, trucks and tractors not running properly — or at all — in frigid temperatures, ice and snow damaging equipment parts and being unable to access some areas of the field because the snow is so deep has discouraged farmers from harvesting. Meanwhile, some farmers don’t have the on-farm drying capacity to handle large amounts of corn, Hain said.
But for farmers such as Amundson, who are able to finish the harvest, it will be one less thing to worry about in the spring, which already appears like it will be challenging, Hain said.
““There’s a lot of moisture, and we had a wet fall and wet spring last year,” Hain said.