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Crops faring well in Upper Midwest

Crops generally look good across the Upper Midwest, with widespread rains in late May providing a healthy boost.

"I don't want to wreck it (by speaking too favorably), but this is the best-looking crop we've had in five or six years," says Phillip Deal, general manager of the Wheaton Dumont Co-op Elevator, based in Wheaton, near the Minnesota-North Dakota-South Dakota border.

Virtually all area crops except for sunflowers were planted by late May, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

There are a few concerns across the area, including the condition of the winter wheat crop. The dry, mild winter wasn't always conductive to winter wheat across the region.

Many of the crops in the Pierre, S.D., area, in north central South Dakota, are doing well, though there are questions about some winter wheat, says Ruth Beck, South Dakota State University Extension's Pierre-based agronomy crops field specialist. Thirty-three percent of South Dakota winter wheat was in fair or poor condition in late May, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. In Montana, 48 percent of winter wheat was in poor or fair condition, NASS says. Figures for North Dakota and Minnesota weren't available.

Freezing temperatures in late May in parts of northern North Dakota and northwest Minnesota also are a concern, particularly for soybean and dry bean growers. Frost hit the Roseau area, although damage to crops didn't appear severe, says Mike Rudebusch, station manager for the Cenex Harvest States grain elevator in Roseau. Overall, crops in his area are doing well, he says.

Eighty-three percent of Minnesota's spring wheat crop was rated good or excellent in late May, the National Agricultural Statistics Service says. Chris Gratton, manager of the CHS-Garrison (N.D.) Farmers Union Elevator Co. in west central North Dakota, says his area was hit by frost, although the full impact was difficult to determine right away. Other than that, "Crops are looking really good," he says.

A year ago, because of the extremely wet spring, only two-third of crops in his area were planted by late May. This year, because farmers were able to start planting early, nearly all fields were planted by late May, Gratton says.

Statewide in North Dakota, 96 percent of spring wheat had emerged by May 27, up from only 18 percent a year ago at the same time, the National Agricultural Statistics Service says. The Garrison area hasn't been short of moisture so far this growing season. Still, timely rains will continue to be needed, Gratton says. "In western North Dakota, we're always two weeks from a drought," he says.

Jonathan Knutson writes for Agweek, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.