Podcast Episode 27

Harvest Check-in 2021: Northern Minnesota

With Guest:
  • Perry Skaurud, Farmer

This fall, the Water Table podcast is talking to farmers from all over the Midwest to get real-time updates on this year’s harvest. Host Jamie Duininck makes calls to producers harvesting all types of crops to learn how this year’s weather conditions along with factors such as subsurface drainage are impacting yields.  Perry Skaurud, a farmer in northern Minnesota, joins Jamie in part 4 of this 4 part series.

Episode 27 | 10:51 min

Guest Bio

Perry Skaurud is a farmer in northern Minnesota.

Jamie Duininck:
This is the water table.

Kent R.
The chance to hear the agricultural side of these issues.

Jamie Duininck:
Place for people to go find information and education.

Matt H.
Water management is just going to become even more critical into the future.

Jamie Duininck:
How misunderstood what we do is.

Kent R.
I would encourage people to open their minds and listen to this dialogue.

Jamie Duininck:
Welcome back to the water table podcast for the fourth and installment of our week. Just talking to farmers around the Midwest. Today I have Perry Skaurud on from Gary, Minnesota. Up in Northern Minnesota, kind of north and east of Fargo, little ways. Perry, how’s it going out in the field today?

Perry Skaurud:
Pretty well. Harvest is rolling along. We finished our dry bean harvest yesterday and we’re down to just two crops, corn and sugar beets. So, we’re making pretty good progress on corn right now. We’re rolling and sugar beets have been on hold because of the extremely warm temperatures and looking more like probably Monday next week will probably be cool enough so we can hopefully get started on that.

Jamie Duininck:
How have the yields been so far this fall, Perry?

Perry Skaurud:
Well, you know the wheat crop actually surprised us. It was better than average and surprisingly so, it was a very dry year throughout. And so we’re seeing soybeans below average, our dry beans are below average. Corn is going to be below average. Sugar beets, we’ll see, to be determined. We did get some late rain that we think that’ll help that crop and maybe we’ll get close to average there.

Jamie Duininck:
Did even the below-average crops, the corn, and soybeans, did they surprise you at all? Just given. I know your area was extremely dry, through from late May all the way through the heat of the summer. And I’ve been talking to some people that even, it was better than what they thought would happen. How about your region? Was it what you expected or where was it?

Perry Skaurud:
Yeah, it’s a good point. I think that’s why I said we kind of really shocked us all. We were all kind of set up to thinking that it was going to be well below average, but that crop was finished before we ran out of moisture. Soybeans, dry beans are pretty close to where I was estimating. We went for about nine weeks, with less than a half an inch of rain for the entire period. And that was the critical point for us. We were, up to that point, really had nice looking crops, but they deteriorated over that stretch.

Jamie Duininck:
2021 has been a challenging year in business, for any of us in business, just with import costs and just challenges across the board and dry weather in some areas, like you face. But what has been your biggest challenge in your operation here in the growing season of 2021,

Perry Skaurud:
We are always subject to what Mother Nature gives us and the weather probably has been the number one challenge and continues to be. The markets have given us some opportunity to deal with below average commodity prices. So, that’s something good to look forward to on the year. Supply of parts, that type of thing have been challenges, but it hasn’t crippled us like we were scared it could. The supply chains throughout the whole country has got issues, and price increases as a reflection of that have raised cost.

Jamie Duininck:
So, I know Perry that over the years you’ve managed the water on your farm pretty extensively, and you’ve worked a lot with Ellingson companies and doing tiling projects. But can you tell me anything about that and how that’s improved your farm? I think you did a really large project last fall, talk about that a little bit.

Perry Skaurud:
Our first tiling we did, I think was 2002. And I look back on it and the one thing that if I had to do differently, I would’ve picked a poor, attractive ground. Because we really observed it for a number of years and it was really good ground that we were going to make better. Ground that isn’t quite as good, you get an even faster response to. But in the long run over all these years we’ve continued, as we saw all the positive things that came from it. And it is a long list. The things that people know of, but there’s a whole intrinsic list of things that you don’t even think about. We’ve kind of put some of that together. Things that we’ve seen, whether it’s harvest order, if you’re dealing with difficult conditions, you save a tile field for the later part of harvest, in case you do get extremely [inaudible 00:05:46]. If you’re patient, the tile will give you the opportunity to go get it.

Perry Skaurud:
The timeliness of your applications when you’re spraying, when you’re fertilizing. The early plant date, which has been huge, a week to 10 days. And over this last five year period, we’ve seen significant response, especially in the corn. Those early plant dates have been a pretty big deal, same as true in the sugar bee crop, too. Those earlier plant dates are what gives you the opportunity. [crosstalk 00:06:28] Of course you can always go back to yield and the economics of it, that it’s got to pay. And those are things you can put dollar values on the intrinsic things I’m talking about. It’s hard to put a dollar value on it, but they’re there.

Jamie Duininck:
Yep, for sure. You look at the last several years and I think we’re in one right now. Again, where it just seems like our weather is changing. Some people call it climate change, some don’t, but where we’ve had colder, wetter Springs and longer, warmer falls. I think we’re facing that right now. I would guess, in your area, it’s pretty unheard of to be the middle of October and not taken very many sugar beets yet. Because it’s too warm, and you’ve certainly had it where it’s been too wet. But because it’s too warm, that earlier plant date is a big deal.

Perry Skaurud:
It is. And you’re right on that. October 1st is generally the rule of thumb start date. I can’t remember the last time we’ve gone this far into October before we’re going to really be rolling on the sugar beets. Now the other thing, we just finished our dry bean harvest and because of the droughty conditions we had. What happened was we did finally catch some of those late rains and the later maturing edibles actually come back to life and started putting more pods and created beans to where we had to sit and wait and be patient. You should be done with edibles by this time too, but we finished yesterday.

Jamie Duininck:
So, you look at all of the drainage you got compared to some areas of the country and starting in the early 2000’s is a long time after, but you really do have 20 years of experience now. What are you thinking about? Do you have more projects on the horizon or is your farm pretty well tiled? Or where are you going with that?

Perry Skaurud:
No, there’s always projects in the works. We’ve been pretty aggressively tiling. I think we’re, in fact, we got some projects going this year and I’ve kind of got a plan laid out, because we like to do it when the crop rotation is preferably wheat. So it’s an early tile period that you’re working in the ground and usually it’s cheaper. Because early projects take a priority like that. And so I’ve kind of got a plan that we’ve laid out. I’ve been working off that plan over the years and as a rotation and the opportunities lay out, that’s how the order of which we tile in the priority. Which has a bigger need than another, in terms of the [inaudible 00:09:36].

Jamie Duininck:
Well, Perry, it’s been a pleasure to talk with you and see what’s going on up in Northwest Minnesota in the Red River Valley and with 2021 harvest. Stays safe as you continue. I’m sure, in some ways it’s been a pretty easy harvest because the weather’s been so good, but we can’t count on that staying that way the rest of the fall. So stay safe and finish strong here.

Perry Skaurud:
Appreciate that. And you’re right. It has gone extremely well. We all know it can change very quickly once Mother Nature decides to do that. So, but number one, get it off safely and let’s get this crop in the bin and in the piles.

Jamie Duininck:
Yep. For sure. Thanks for joining us today on the Water Table Podcast Perry.

Perry Skaurud:
Thank you. Have a good day.

Jamie Duininck:
Yes. Yep. Bye bye.

Jamie Duininck:
If you enjoy what you’re listen, you can find us on your favorite podcast platform. You can find us on Twitter or Facebook and you can also find at watertablepodcast.com. Thanks for listening.