The Roundup -

By Tim Fine 

Richland County 2017 Harvest Below Average


November 1, 2017 | View PDF

Most years, the terms “mixed bag” or “very variable” pretty adequately sum up how small grain and hay harvest went in Richland County. The 2017 harvest, however can simply be described as below average.

I do not know for sure what the average yield was for small grains in Richland County but I do know in many instances, farmers were using more fuel to run their combines across their fields than they were getting in bushels per acre. What started out as a fairly promising spring ended up turning into a dismal summer and beginning of fall.

There was probably more acres of hay harvested this year than in previous years, but that is only because, as our farmers saw that their wheat, barley, and oat crops were not going to produce much if any grain, they decided to cut them and bale them. As a result, I did more nitrate testing on small grains this year alone than I have done in any other year since I started. I do not have exact figures but I would even venture to guess that I tested more samples this year than most of the others combined.

I would be remiss if I did not include pulse acres into the dismal category as well. Again, what started out as looking promising, ended up with a less than stellar crop to harvest, if there was anything to harvest. Just like the small grains, some of the pulses ended up being turned into forage either by being grazed directly or cut and baled.

The only saving grace that our farmers and ranchers received this year was the fact that we are still able to use our wonderfully constructed and engineered irrigation system. Every chance I get I like to tout how valuable the Lower Yellowstone Irrigation Project is to our area and this year, without the benefit of irrigation, all of our crops would have been disastrous. With that being said though, even some of our irrigated crops did not fare as well as they could have. In the heat of summer, I was concerned about some of these crops making it. However, as the sugarbeet campaign continues to march toward completion, it seems as though most of the irrigated crops fared pretty well.

The crops that we do not grow as much of (safflower, canola, soybeans) seemed to do pretty well also given the conditions. Safflower, specifically has a deep tap root so it was able to scavenge some moisture from deep in the soil that other crops may not have been able to take advantage of. With that being said, yields probably still were lacking. Soybeans for the most part are an irrigated crop so they should have done pretty well also. The late summer moisture that we did receive should have helped with soybean yield and test weight as that is the time when pod fill was happening.

There really isn’t a bright light at the end of the tunnel except that potentially, the showers that we received in August and September did help to re-charge some of our soils. Hopefully winter will be favorable to us as well so that at least we can start out on a positive note next Spring.


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