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Crops, pastures beginning to show heat stress

Crops, pastures beginning to show heat stress

Heat stress

Crops in the western region are beginning to show heat stress.

Crops are developing well across the state as summer arrives, with most crops in average-to-good condition, although heat stress is showing in some crops in western areas.

Across the state, NDSU Ag Extension agents are reporting dry conditions, especially for the topsoil.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the entire western half of the state is at least dry, with a large swath of moderately dry conditions from north to south.

For late-planted crops in the eastern region of the state, those plants have mostly germinated and are putting on leaves now that summer is bringing heat units.

“Crops are starting to really come along in Cass County with the sun and heat we’ve been getting recently. While there always seems to be a few wet spots in some low and heavy clay areas, most fields are getting pretty dry now,” said Kyle Aasand, NDSU Ag Extension agent in Cass County.

Across the state, canola is blooming or bolting, and peas are beginning to bloom, while barley, durum and spring wheat are mostly jointing, and in some areas, heading.

Sunflower plantings are 89 percent seeded, with some 64 percent emerged, slightly behind the average.

Farming was difficult this spring due to flooding, which led to soggy roads and water damaging roadways and bridges, making it a challenge to get into fields to plant and spray. That means some plants are only now emerging in fields.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum recently put in for an emergency declaration for widespread flooding in 21 eastern counties, which occurred when the Red River dropped below major flood stage in Pembina, N.D.

“Roads were not in the best condition this spring, making farming challenging. Getting from field to field was difficult with poor roadways and wet spots,” said Emily Trzpuc, NDSU Ag Extension agent in Emmons County.

Emmons County producers still have a few acres of sunflowers left to plant, but crops are developing well.

“Most crops are doing fairly well, with some wheat heading. The corn is out of the ground and soybeans are coming along nicely,” Trzpuc said. Producers had good subsoil moisture, but the county is slowly becoming dry and the top two inches of soil could use moisture.

In Foster County, Jeff Gale, NDSU Ag Extension agent, based in Carrington, said the crops in the county are “a little better than average.” The corn and soybeans in Foster County are out of the ground and adding leaves, but as in many areas of the state, the topsoil needs moisture.

“Producers in the county are looking for some rain now. In general, we have had very little rain over the past month,” Gale said.

In Ward County, Eric Eriksmoen, NDSU research agronomist at North Central Research Extension Center, said fields in many areas are in need of precipitation.

“The early crops are looking promising, but the biggest issue, mainly in the western part of our county, is the lack of moisture,” Eriksmoen said.

The surface and subsurface moisture in the western and central areas are nearly depleted and the crops are starting to exhibit drought stress.

“Our crops generally look nice right now, but we desperately need rain,” he said.

Later planted crops in Ward County are “very inconstantly coming out of the ground, if at all.”

Small grains, spring wheat and oats are starting to head out; canola is bolting and will be in full bloom in another week, and peas have started to bloom. 

Corn, sunflowers and soybeans are small but growing quickly in the north central region.

Eriksmoen said the region is starting to see dry weather pests, such as grasshoppers, thrips and small grain beetles

In the southwestern region of the state in Dunn County, Greg Benz, NDSU Ag Extension agent, said the mild spring the county had was good for calving and getting in early seeding.

Now that summer has started, the county is needing precipitation.

“Sadly, the timely spring rains have been lacking and are few and far between. When it has rained, it has been sparse and spotty. The county is dry now, we’re seeing pastures mature and brown and crops/forages are showing stress and maturing early,” Benz said. “We need rain to keep what we have. Luckily for us, it has not been the hot weather we had in 2017.”  

Regarding livestock around the state, NDSU Extension is warning of cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, as it has been identified in ponds throughout some parts of the state. It can produce toxins that are harmful to livestock, wildlife and people.

“Areas of the state experiencing drought have an increased risk,” said Miranda Meehan, NDSU Extension livestock environmental stewardship specialist. “The growth of this bacteria is facilitated by high temperatures, and some species are toxic when livestock ingest them.”

Check with your local Extension agent about how to test for cyanobacteria.

Regarding pastures in the southwestern half of the state, Extension agents have reported the grass is short and hay fields are not developing further due to the lack of moisture. But it should be an above average crop.

“Hay is being cut and questions about prices are already discussed as it looks like the first cutting will be good, though it’s not looking good for anything after that,” Benz said.

Across the state, the USDA National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) reports alfalfa condition is 49 percent good-to-excellent, while pasture and range is only 52 percent in good-to-excellent condition.

But due to pasture conditions, Benz said he has seen cattle being moved early “as pastures are not holding up well.” 

In the central and southcentral regions, pastures are short due to the cool spring and quick heat we received, according to Tyler Kralicek, NDSU Ag Extension agent in Burleigh County.

“The pastures that were grazed hard last year are really short, currently,” Kralicek said.


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