Cool temperatures that have dominated our area weather this summer have proven very beneficial to crop production. The proof is in the fields where this fall's yields are expected to be some of the best in memory.
While hot temperatures have been limited to recent days, most of this year's growing season has seen cooler than normal temperatures and ample rainfall. The result is that many crops in the Minot region have flourished and growers have had little concern about too much heat hampering plant growth. Corn, a plant that requires several days of hot weather to mature, may be the only exception.
"Cooler temps have been excellent for small grains, peas, flax and canola. It's been an excellent season for those," said Steve Ibach, United Agronomy of Berthold. "Soybeans, corn, and sunflowers need sun later. The middle portion of the state, all the way to South Dakota, is probably looking the best it's ever been."
Canola blooms in this field north of Garrison. Crops in the region appear to be doing very well. An excellent harvest is anticipated.
Dan Sem, SunPrairie Grain of Minot, likes what he sees in the fields too.
"Crop conditions are actually pretty good. Every area is a little different but, overall, we're happy with crop conditions right now," said Sem. "Will it be a bumper crop? I don't think so but we are looking forward to fall. We're two to three weeks from seeing new winter wheat. The quality looks to be real good this year."
A number of winter wheat acres suffered winterkill in the Minot region, likely due to a lack of snow cover. However, many of those acres were reworked and planted with another crop such as soybeans or spring wheat. What started out as iffy conditions for many area growers has since improved dramatically.
"Growing degree-wise we're sitting on a good pace right now. The corn, and even crops in general, don't need any real big moisture right now," said Sem. "Soybeans can always use a shot of rain at the end of July or early August to finish up."
Rainfall this year ranges from just below average at the Minot Airport reporting station to above average at the North Central Research and Extension Center south of Minot. As of Monday the airport had recorded 9.62 inches of rain for 2014. That compares with an average accumulation of 10.69 inches for the date.
South of the city the rainfall totals have been somewhat higher with 11.86 inches recorded as of 8 a.m. Monday at the Research and Extension Center. The National Weather Service's 96 years of data places average yearly rainfall for Minot at 17.19 inches.
Hail did take a toll on crops in some areas, primarily west of Minot, but the affected areas were reasonably small.
"If you are talking our general trade area we have been pretty fortunate," said Ibach. "North of Mohall it was pretty wet again, but from Carpio south, the whole crop got seeded and it looks like a good crop coming."
Sem noted that, due to very wet conditions, only 50 to 60 percent of crop acreage was planted in the Westhope and Antler region along the Canadian border. Elsewhere though, it has been a better than average year for large variety of crops.
"We've got a lot of different crops out there," remarked Sem. "Overall it's a very healthy crop and should be good for bushels. I think the biggest problem right now is, with the size of crop we have coming, can we move it to the market? It's not just about the crop, it's about moving it to the market we need to get to."
Elevators attempting to move grain to market this spring experienced long delays in getting enough railroad cars to ship product. The situation eventually eased up a bit but some storage operations are worried about a repeat in railcar demand this fall.
"The railroads have not added a lot of steel to their fleet and we've got a bigger crop than we had last year coming," said Sem. "You can see the storm on the horizon coming with rail freight. Now we've got that next step to really fight through to get the crop moved to the end user."
Two crops that are expected to be bigger than usual in the Minot area is canola and soybeans. According to Sem, those two crops replaced some sunflower, wheat the pea acres that had been planted a year ago.