Harvest relies on frozen ground to get in field
The trick to harvesting row crops this year in Stutsman County seems to be below average temperatures and frozen ground, according to Gayne Gasal, who farms north of Jamestown.
"When it was cold, we were going good," he said on Monday after temperatures of about 42 degrees on Sunday halted harvest work. "It got too warm on Sunday and the fields got too wet."
Gasal said crews had been harvesting soybeans but were limited to areas where at least some of the recent moisture had drained away.
"Don't know when we'll get to the corn crop," he said.
Daryl Ritchison, director of the North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network, said any freezing of the ground has been limited to near the surface. All NDAWN automated reporting stations across North Dakota still show soil temperatures above freezing at the 4-inch depth, he said.
"It is a slow process to get that cold," he said, referring to freezing temperatures below the surface of the ground.
Ritchison said for the most part, temperatures in the Jamestown region have been below normal for the past two weeks and could continue that way through about Nov. 15.
Normal temperatures as of Nov. 5 for Jamestown would be a high of 45 and a low of 25 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.
"By Nov. 20, most North Dakota reporting stations have average highs at around the freezing point," Ritchison said.
The lower temperatures could firm up fields allowing some more harvest work which could boost spirits of farmers.
"There were a couple days last week where people could get out and combine," said Alicia Harstad, Stutsman County Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources. "At least they could feel like they were doing something."
Harstad said the corn and soybeans still in the field have a higher moisture content than is ideal for harvest and storage.
"With the crops wet like this in September, we'd be waiting to harvest," she said. "But it's not September and they have to go when they can."
Gasal said frozen ground would get combines back in the fields although hauling the grain out of the fields will remain a challenge.
"The grain cart with the tracks does pretty good," he said. "In some situations, we've had to drive a mile and a half to get where a truck could travel to unload."
Better conditions for harvest could help improve moods in the farming community, Harstad said.
"Harvest weather would boost people's morale a little bit," she said.