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Published September 28, 2010, 12:00 AM

Rains take toll on some crops; dry, sunny forcast good news for harvest

Still-standing bean crops in North Dakota and Minnesota are fairer than they were a week or two ago, and that’s not so good.

By: Stephen J. Lee, Forum Communications Co., INFORUM

Still-standing bean crops in North Dakota and Minnesota are fairer than they were a week or two ago, and that’s not so good.

It means less of each crop is good or excellent, and more is in poor condition, according to the weekly crop survey by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s grilling of county agents.

Overall, the soybeans, dry edible beans and corn crops remain in pretty OK shape across the region. Getting out into waterlogged fields to resume harvest, however, will be problematic for farmers this week. Fortunately, the weather forecast is for warm, sunny and dry weather.

The reason for the condition slippage mostly has been the heavy rains the past two weeks, especially last week. Many dry edible bean fields, for example, were cut into windrows when the rains came. That’s a situation where the beans don’t stand to get any better waiting until a combine can show up.

Meanwhile, corn crops actually improved slightly in the crop condition categories, still able to use some water, or at least not get injured from it, with harvest still a week and more away for the most part.

Most parts of eastern North Dakota and northwest Minnesota received 2 to 3 inches of rain last week and fields remain soggy, with lots of standing water.

Field work did resume a little Monday, in high fields where some cultivation was possible.

But harvest for most areas remains a day or so away, at best.

Crop conditions have been very good all year, but slipped the past week.

North Dakota’s soybeans, for example, just began to be harvested the past week, but went from 28 percent excellent condition, 58 percent good and 11 percent fair on Sept. 13 to only 23 percent of the crop rated excellent by Sunday, 61 percent in good condition and 12 percent fair, USDA said. Soybeans rated in the very poor category doubled in the past week, from 1 percent to 2 percent in North Dakota; the poor condition category remained at 2 percent.

In Minnesota, the soybean crop went from 32 percent rated excellent, 55 percent good and 11 percent fair condition Sept. 19 to being rated only 28 percent excellent, 53 percent good and 13 percent only fair condition by Sunday.

A week ago, none of Minnesota’s soybeans were rated very poor, but 2 percent were given that low mark by Sunday, USDA reported; the simply poor rating doubled, from 2 percent to 4 percent last week.

Across southern Minnesota, an average of more than 7 inches of rain fell last week and crop damage to soybeans is expected to be widespread, crop watchers said.

North Dakota’s corn crop, meanwhile, lost a slight shine of excellence but also saw less poor stuff, going from 27 percent excellent, 54 percent good and 13 percent fair a week ago to 25 percent excellent, 58 percent good and 12 percent fair by Sunday. Only 2 percent of the crop was very poor and 3 percent poor by Sunday, slightly better than the 2 percent and 4 percent ratings a week earlier.

Dry edible beans in North Dakota went from 15 percent excellent, 48 percent good, 24 percent fair, 9 percent poor and 4 percent very poor condition Sept. 19 to 17 percent excellent, 48 percent good, 24 percent fair, 7 percent poor and 4 percent very poor.

Only 2 percent of the dry beans were harvested last week across North Dakota, putting the combined amount at 45 percent, behind the five-year average of 49 percent by Sept. 26.

Only 3 percent of the soybeans were harvested in North Dakota by Sunday, well behind the average of 17 percent by the same date. In Minnesota, 6 percent of the soybeans were harvested by Sunday, behind the 13 percent average of the previous five years for the date.

North Dakota’s potatoes were 51 percent dug by Sunday, behind the average of 54 percent, and up from 44 percent a week earlier.

Minnesota’s potatoes were 62 percent dug, up from the five-year average of 59 percent and week-ago estimates of 50 percent dug.

Corn harvest hasn’t started in North Dakota; usually about 2 percent of the crop is harvested by now. But it still looks to be a record-yielding corn crop.

Minnesota farmers took off the first 2 percent of their corn crop last week; the five-year average for Sept. 26 is 3 percent.

American Crystal has about completed its pre-pile harvest of sugar beets, with one or two factories planning to take in a in a few beets Tuesday, including a few more than the scheduled 15 percent of the crop during the initial harvest phase, in order to give factories a better chance to handle the full-on stockpile harvest scheduled to begin Friday.

Stephen Lee is a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald