If you wanted to find a way to wreck a harvest, you couldn’t do any better than the current wet winter storm, coupled with the rains of the past two months.
Snow definitely impacts the harvest.
“When the snow melts, the grain will be wet and will need sunshine and dry soil conditions before any harvesting can occur,” says Jay D. Fuhrer, Soil Health Specialist for Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Wet grain eventually results in a loss of both quality and quantity. So from a harvest viewpoint, Fuhrer says, the present weather is a worst-case scenario.
“The very best weather for harvest would be for the snow to melt, followed by sunshine, mild temps, and a little breeze, allowing the soil surface and the grain to dry,” Fuhrer adds. “Then the combines could roll. The sooner this happens, the better the quality and quantity will be.”
As to specific crops in this snowy weather, Fuhrer says corn and sunflowers have the advantage of being tall plants. Consequently, a combine’s header can run higher and avoid any remaining snow. North Dakota has harvested this way before in wintry, cold, and dry conditions many times. The key word here is “dry.”
Wheat is a mid-tall plant. Fuhrer says the combine header runs lower than with corn or sunflowers. As a result, the snow needs to be melted and there needs to be a period of dry conditions.
Soybeans are a short plant. The pods can hang very low on the plant and the combine header will be sliding just above the ground. Again, Fuhrer says, the snow needs to be melted and there needs to be a period of dry conditions.
Fuhrer also notes some areas of North Dakota are so saturated, that it may require freezing temperatures to keep harvest equipment from becoming stuck in the muddy muck left behind by wet conditions.