Early estimates show 2.5 million acres of North Dakota's cropland not planted

Ann Bailey
Forum News Service

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — At least 2.5 million acres of North Dakota farmland was not planted this spring because they were too wet, the USDA Farm Service Agency estimates.

Eighteen percent of the state’s farmers have not not yet certified their prevented planting acres, which means the number of unplanted acres likely will grow, said Brad Thykeson, North Dakota Farm Service Agency state executive director.

“We have them in every county, although the eastern side of North Dakota is the heaviest hit,” he said.

Last year North Dakota had a total of about 860,000 acres of prevented planting, the 10th highest number of acres in the United States. Minnesota, which had 1.17 million prevented planting acres in 2019, was ranked sixth. Attempts to contact the Minnesota Farm Service Agency for 2020 prevented planting acres were not successful.

Grand Forks County likely is one of the eastern North Dakota counties with the highest number of prevented planting acres in 2020. In that area, not just parts of fields, but entire fields were not planted.

Grand Forks County Extension Agent Katelyn Hain didn’t want to speculate on how many acres will be certified as unplanted this year but, from observation, believes it will be significant.

According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, Grand Forks County has a total of 798,480 acres of cropland.

Farmers who did get their crops planted this year soon, weather permitting, will be launching their small grains harvests. Many wheat fields across Grand Forks County are ripening, and farmers will begin combining within the next few weeks.

Further north, small grains crops also are turning from green to gold in neighboring Walsh County. The condition of the crops vary, depending on their location, said Brad Brummond, Walsh County Extension agent.

“We have a tale of three counties. Drayton to County Road 9 to Grafton is in really tough shape,” said Brummond, noting much of that area received heavy rains that drowned out crops and damaged crops.

“Pinto beans are not making it and wheat and barley are going backwards. We have potatoes sitting in water,” he said. “We’re getting bacterial blight in our pinto beans and edibles from getting beat up by the weather.”

Central Walsh County crops, however, look like a “million dollars,” according to Brummond.

“We have some of the best corn and edible beans I’ve seen in awhile,” he said.

The condition of western Walsh County crops, meanwhile, are a combination of good and poor.

“Some of the early crops look good,” he said. ”Some of the late crops are drowned out.”

Like Grand Forks County, Walsh County has prevented planting acres.

“We’ve got a pile that didn’t get planted,” said Brummond, adding that managing those acres is difficult because they are too wet to plant cover crop and too wet to spray for weed control.

Weed control also is challenging in Grand Forks County fields. Besides showing up in prevented planting acres, they are showing up in wheat fields that are nearly mature.

“I’ve seen fields that look ready to be desiccated,” Hain said.

However, farmers may be holding off on doing that because they want to spray the fields for weeds first, she said.

Early estimates show that more that 2.5 million acres of cropland in North Dakota wasn’t planted this year. FNS photo