I talked with a farmer in Montana recently who’s already finished his harvest of wheat and pulse crops (peas and lentils). That normally doesn’t happen for him until well into September. Early planting this spring and hot, dry weather this summer caused all his crops to be ready for harvest at roughly the same time.
Typically, the farmer said, his harvest consists of “a lot of sprints. This year, it was a marathon.” Though weary after doing so much work in such a short period, the farmer appreciates having time off this harvest season.
If you’re a farmer, which would you prefer at harvest? A series of spread-out spreads? Or a marathon that gives you a break at the end?
The area’s wheat crop turned out well, despite widespread drought. Wheat generally was planted early enough to beat the worst of the drought.
But what about corn and soybeans, the region’s two other major crops, which will be harvested this fall?
Well, some smart people in the Upper Midwest tell me they think soybeans will yield fairly well, while corn won’t. Other smart people tell me they think corn (at least some fields of it) will do OK, while soybeans will disappoint.
Drop me a line and share your thoughts.
Everybody agrees on one thing: We won’t know the fate of corn and soybeans for certain until combines hit the fields.
Canada and the United States have had their share of spats through the years. But by any reasonable measure, the two are neighbors, allies and friends.
That said, a basic truth of agriculture is that farmers in one part of the world gain when their peers elsewhere have production problems. Canadian farmers, who expect to harvest average or better wheat and canola crops, are benefiting from the massive U.S. drought. Canadian ag producers are fully aware of it, too.
Read my story in the Aug. 27 issue of Agweek.
I recently asked a a veteran North Dakota farmer how his corn and soybeans are faring this drought-stricken year.
There was a long pause. Eventually he said, “A month ago I was happy with them. Two weeks ago I was depressed about how they looked. Now I’ve decided they don’t look too bad, considering how hot and dry it’s been.”
Another long pause. “I’m not sure how to answer your question. It’s just been a roller coaster of emotions,” he said.
I suspect many area farmers share the sentiment. Crops, which looked so good early, have suffered from inadequate moisture and gone downhill. For many producers, the decline hasn’t been quite as sharp or severe as expected. Producers take a certain consolation in that. But, inevitably, they also worry about the additional damage that will occur if rain doesn’t come quickly. That leads to a roller coaster of emotions.
The wild ride won’t end until harvest.
Growing up as a farm kid in central North Dakota, I often heard about the drought of 1961. As a journalist, I covered droughts in 1988 and 2006. This summer, drought has reared its ugly head once again.
I’m preparing an Agweek cover story that will look at this year’s drought. The story, in part, will examine how this year’s drought compares with previous ones. I’d like to include readers’ thoughts on past droughts and how their farm, ranch or agricultural business was affected. I’m also interested in how evolving farming practices such as no-till affect impact your operation’s ability to withstand drought.
Please take a few minutes to jot down your strongest drought memory; if you’re a veteran agriculturalist on the Northern Plains, you surely have one. Include your name and home town.
Send the information to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or Agweek, Box 6008, Grand Forks, N.D., 58206-6008.
Women are playing an increasingly diverse role in U.S. agriculture. I’ve written several stories about their growing prominence.
Now, the Women in Agribusiness Summit promises “to address the challenges and opportunities for women in the agribusiness and food sector.” Organizers also promise “that women representing myriad roles in companies across the agribusiness and food production value chain” will attend.
The event, to be held Sept. 16-17 in New Orleans, will open with remarks by U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., which in itself shows the importance of women, or at least one woman, in U.S. agriculture.
More info: www.WomenInAg.com.
Sunflowers used be a really big crop in North Dakota, western Minnesota and South Dakota. Though still important, sunflowers are less prominent today, in part because of the greater popularity of corn and soybeans.
But sunflowers hold up relatively well in drought. Will this hot, dry summer encourage more area farmers to raise the crop next year?
Read my story in the Aug. 13 issue of Agweek.
This is perfect weather to harvest wheat. The days are long, warm and dry, with little wind.
On a recent trip through northeast North Dakota, I saw dozens of combines roaring through wheat fields. Chaff billowed out in great clouds and hung heavy in the air.
Yields. though erratic, are pretty good on balance. Quality is excellent.
Area farmers have mixed emotions right now. They’re worried that the hot, dry weather will further stress drought-damaged row crops. But they’re also enjoying wheat harvest.
In an ideal world, farmers will finish wheat harvest in the next day or two — then receive 2 inches of slow, gentle rain for the row crops.
Quick: What’s the greatest invention/discovery ever? Fire? The wheel? Tools? Indoor plumbing? Air conditioning?
My vote might go to antibiotics. It’s difficult to overstate how much they’ve improved the human condition.
It’s almost as difficult to overstate the controversy generated by using antibiotics in animal health. Supporters say the practice is necessary and that they use antibiotics judiciously. Critics say the practice is increasing the resistance of humans to antibiotics.
In any case, there’s growing interest in the use of alternatives to antibiotics in animal health. Some smart people, including USDA researchers, are studying alternatives.
You can read my cover story on the issue in the Aug. 6 issue of Agweek.
Wheat harvest is in full swing across much of the region. Farmers and commodity group officials tell me yields are better than expected.
Normally, farmers are ambivalent about receiving rain when wheat harvest is going strong. On one hand, they want to get off their wheat in good order. On the other, they want rain for other crops that are still growing and that will be harvested later.
There’s no ambivalence this summer. Rain is much more important than keeping the combines going. That alone tells you how short of moisture the region is.