GILBY, N.D.-Brent Schmitz was expecting a 50- to 60-bushel soybean crop this year, but he said he'll be lucky to get half of that after heat and dry conditions burned out his plants as they started to form pods.
"This year started out good," the Mekinock farmer said. "It just all of a sudden turned dry. Everything just shut off."
Schmitz, who has soybeans near Gilby in northeast North Dakota, is one of many farmers in the Red River Valley who expect to lose yields after a recent dry spell. Rain helped the crops along in May and June as they grew, but not much came in July and August, he said.
Most of northeast North Dakota is in the same position as Schmitz, Walsh County Extension Agent Brad Brummond said.
"We had a 60-bushel soybean crop coming, and that's so hard to take, to watch it go away," Brummond said.
Spring wheat produced relatively good yields, but farmers with later crops like soybeans, pinto beans and edible beans needed rain in the last week, he said. Instead, they got some of the hottest temperatures of the year, with highs staying in the 90s for several days.
"We didn't need the upper 90s. That was bad," Schmitz said.
Northwest Minnesota is in the same position, said Bill Craig, extension agent for Marshall and Pennington counties. Pods on soybean plants are aborting, and the ones that have formed likely will have smaller beans, he said.
"It's really too bad, because we had the potential for a great crop," Craig said.
Most of Traill and Steele counties, along with parts of Grand Forks, Cavalier and Pembina counties, are abnormally dry, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center.
Pinto beans likely will be less than half of what was expected in Walsh County, and edible beans are burning up, Brummond said. Corn also is starting to die in sandy ground, though it can be salvaged in other parts of the county, he said.
"Our soybeans, they are starting to go down," he said. "They are starting to drop leaves. They are starting to die."
Producers with cattle are losing grazing land and starting to count hay bales, wondering if they will need to buy hay or sell livestock, he said.
Some soybean crops in the Devils Lake area also are drying up and "shutting down," particularly in poorer land with sand and gravel ridges, Warwick farmer Austin Langley said.
"The good land is still holding on, and everybody is optimistic and hoping for the rain to save them," he said.
Farmers need rain soon to save what crops are left, Brummond said. Moisture could help pods fill out more, but it's getting late, Craig said.
"It might help a little bit, but I think the damage is already done," Schmitz said.
There is a chance for thunderstorms Saturday into Sunday in the Valley, but this week's forecast mostly calls for sunny skies with highs in the 80s, according to the National Weather Service.
Farmers need every bushel and acre they can get, especially after soybean prices dropped in the last several months, Schmitz said. Soybeans sold for more than $10 a bushel for most of the first half of the year, but the crop dropped in late May from $10.41 per bushel to a 10-year low of $8.18 per bushel in mid-July. Soybeans were priced at noon Wednesday, Aug. 15, on the Chicago Board of Trade at $8.70 per bushel.
"It's going to be bad," Schmitz said. "There aren't going to be any huge profits this year. With low prices and low yield, it's going to be kind of ugly for some farmers."