U.S. durum yields well below last year’s levels

Dustin Johnsrud, who farms near Williston, North Dakota, started harvesting his durum crop in mid August.

As of Aug. 18, his earliest-seeded durum was performing better than anticipated, at 20 to 25 bushels per acre.

But he’s assuming the rest of the crop won’t do as well.

“The later seeded stuff… I’m thinking 10 to 15 (bushels),” said Johnsrud, who lives near Epping, N.D., north of the Missouri River.

The North Dakota Wheat Commission, in an August crop progress report, said durum wheat is suffering in the state.

About 44 percent of durum was rated as poor to very poor condition and 49 percent in fair condition.

North Dakota farmers seeded 1.1 million acres of durum in 2017, almost all of it in the northwest corner of the state, which endured a severe drought in June and July.

“From the first of June to the first of August, we had almost no rain and very, very hot and windy (conditions),” said Johnsrud, a board member with the North Dakota Wheat Commission.

The United States Department of Agriculture forecasts an average yield of 24 bu. per acre in North Dakota, well below last year’s yield of 40.5 bu. per acre, said Erica Olson, North Dakota Wheat Commission market specialist.

However, initial yield reports are lower.

“I’ve heard anywhere from 15 to 25 (bushels),” Olson said.

Clair Keene, North Dakota State University extension agronomist in Williston, is more optimistic.

Most durum crops around Williston are fair to poor, she said.

“Out here, I don’t think it’s terrible. But it’s certainly not good.”

By the third week of August, the durum harvest was just underway in North Dakota. But farmers in eastern Montana had already combined more than half of the durum crop.

Montana had 630,000 acres of durum this year. Like North Dakota, the crop suffered from lack of moisture in June and July.

The USDA forecasts an average durum yield in Montana of 17 bu. per acre for 2017. Last year Montana growers averaged 41 bu. per acre.

In 2015 and 2014, they recorded 31 bu. per acre.

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