Jonathan Knutson / Agweek Staff Writer
CROOKSTON, Minn.—This is the story of a young man who was "nuts about farming" and later developed a passion for firefighting—and now, against the odds, is doing both. It's also the story of a man and his family who are slowly but persistently coming to terms with a terrible loss. "We're still trying to figure it all out. We still have a long ways to go, and we may never get all the answers. But we're working at it," Adam Schiller says. Amber Schiller, Adam's wife and the mother of their three young children, died unexpectedly of natural causes on Jan. 27.
Palmer amaranth—voted the most troublesome weed in the United States by the Weed Science Society of America—has made its way to North Dakota. The weed, also known as Palmer pigweed, recently was discovered in McIntosh County, the first official sighting in the state. DNA testing at the University of Illinois confirmed that the weed is Palmer. The weed already had been found in South Dakota and Minnesota.
INKSTER, N.D. — It's too late for much of the area's potato crop, but many spud fields would benefit from a good rain, and soon. "If it's in a day or two days or five days — rain would help," said Andrew Robinson, Fargo, N.D.,-based extension potato specialist with both North Dakota State University and the University of Minnesota. Weeks of warm, dry weather have stressed non-irrigated potatoes, and a shot of late-summer precipitation would boost less-advanced spuds. Rain also would soften fields and make them easier to dig for harvest, Robinson and others say.
It's a truism of Upper Midwest agriculture that nature can't provide August weather to please all farmers. Dry conditions benefit small-grain harvest but work against soybeans and other late-planted crops, while the rain showers that help still-developing crops complicate combining wheat and other small grains. But most area farmers, especially ones who grow more than small grains, would welcome rain this August. Many fields across the area are getting dry, and deteriorating crops need moisture.
Farm groups don't come more mainstream than the Minnesota Corn Growers Association. That's not a criticism, it's not a compliment. It's simply my observation — based in part on visits to the farms of a number of association members — that the group values established practices which improve the bottom line of farming operations. Nothing fringy or extreme for the MCGA: like I said, it's mainstream.
LAKOTA, N.D.—Like many other Upper Midwest farmers, Matt Nelson got off to a slow start planting this spring because of uncooperative weather. But he got his crops into the ground, albeit later than ideal. Now, "I'm a little surprised by how they look. They're more advanced than I would've thought" given late planting, Nelson said. Overall, his crops—spring wheat, barley, corn, canola and black beans—look good, though more rain will be needed.
GRAND FORKS. N.D.—David Burkland walks through a field of knee-high corn on a late-June morning and studies it with experienced eyes. Its condition isn't ideal, but he's mostly satisfied—especially since the field was covered with grass in the Conservation Reserve Program a year ago. "This isn't going to be any kind of bumper crop," the veteran Grand Forks, N.D., farmer said. "But putting it back (into crop production) just made sense."
HUTCHINSON, Minn — Ryan Bushman has seen many good crops during his time in the Hutchinson, Minn., area. He's optimistic that 2018 is bringing another. "It's looking good. We're a little wet in places, but it's really coming along," says Bushman, owner and operator of Prairie Road Crop Consulting in Hutchinson.
ALEXANDRIA, Minn. — Planted sunflower acres are up, and the fledgling crop looks "phenomenal." That more than offsets, at least for now, concerns about potential disruptions in exports, sunflower officials say. "The crop is off to a great start. Right now, it looks just beautiful. I think we're headed for a good crop this year," said John Sandbakken, executive director of the National Sunflower Association.
A new report reinforces what many agriculturalists already know: Public-sector spending on agriculture research in the U.S. and many other high-income countries continues to decline, challenging farmers' ability to produce enough food to meet growing demand. Public ag research and spending development peaked in 2009 and, adjusted for inflation, fell by an average of 1.5 percent annually from 2009 to 2013, according to the report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Service.