Spring wheat being cut in eastern North Dakota near the Red River yielded 70 to 80 bushels an acre this week, while in the western part of the state much lower yields were reported during the early stages of harvest there, custom harvesters said.
That disparity in wheat production was largely expected after a crop tour went through the state last week and found the best wheat along the eastern edge of the state. Drought and hot weather hurt much of the crop in the west and many fields in the southwest were abandoned.
“We have been harvesting for five days. I knew it was going to be a good crop,” said custom harvester Mike Matejcek, who was operating near Wahpeton in southeast North Dakota.
Big grain heads on the higher-yielding wheat bent the stalks and made harvesting slow at times. Proteins ranged from 12% to 16% with the variance attributed to the varieties of wheat, he said.
Rain slowed harvesters on Thursday and Friday but forecasts called for drier weather through the weekend.
Harvester Myron Eberts cut fields near Dickinson in southwest North Dakota that yielded15 bushels per acre. A year ago the same fields yielded 40 to 50 bushels.
“There was a lot of 3 and 4 bushel wheat that got baled up,” he said of the abandonment in that area.
A common complaint among the custom harvesters was farmers intended to harvest more of the wheat themselves rather than paying someone to cut it. The low yields and low returns had the farmers focused on reducing costs.
“There are very few commitments on spring wheat because they do not know what they have regarding yields,” said Mike Strunk, a custom harvester working near Chester, in north central Montana. “If it is a decent yield they will hire us to get it out.”
Strunk was harvesting lentils and field peas until the spring wheat was ready to cut, which should be this weekend. Strunk expects the spring wheat yields to be “very poor” due to drought there.
As of July 30, USDA said 9% of the spring wheat was harvested including 5% in North Dakota and 5% in Montana. The North Dakota crop was rated 29% good to excellent and Montana’s 9%, compared with 71% and 66%, respectively, a year ago.
In July, USDA estimated North Dakota’s spring wheat yield at 38 bushels per acre with production at 196.08 million bushels versus year ago’s 46 bpa and 269.1 million. Montana’s spring wheat was forecast to yield 26 bpa and produce 55.12 million versus year ago’s 36 and 75.96 million. USDA will update those figures in its August 10 report.