MT crop

Trudging into the heart of August, condition across Montana turned hot and dry. According to the Mountain Regional Field Office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service-USDA (NASS) report for the week ending Aug. 14, topsoil moisture conditions were rated at 34 percent adequate-to-surplus, dropping from the 41 percent experienced the prior week and drastically below the 76 percent recorded at this time last year. Subsoil moisture conditions also dipped, according to the latest NASS report, with 41 percent adequate-to-surplus recorded compared to 51 percent the previous week.

The hot and dry conditions may make things a little uncomfortable for producers as they continue to wade through harvest, but there are few complaints coming in. This is ideal harvest weather and after the roller coaster that was 2019’s harvest, Montana growers are counting their blessings this year.

“Harvesting is going really well this year, much better then last year and we are very thankful for that. Everyone is pretty much smiling,” reported Shelley Mills, MSU Extension agent in Valley County.

Mills went on to say timely rains during the growing season were much appreciated. Pea and lentil harvest is wrapping up around Valley County, which is located in northeast Montana, but spring wheat and chickpea harvest is clipping right along currently. Mills reports the canola is even starting to turn, so before long it too will be ready for harvest.

Looking statewide, small grains harvest is moving right along. According to the latest NASS report, winter wheat harvest is estimated at 60 percent complete compared to 64 percent the previous year and 84 percent for the five-year average. Spring wheat harvested is at 35 percent, well ahead of last year’s estimation of 17 percent compete by this time. Barley is also doing well with 27 percent of the crop harvested. Durum harvest is looking promising with 20 percent of the crop already thrashed compared to 10 percent by this time in 2019.

Pulse harvest is making great progress, as well, with 66 percent of dry edible peas harvested already, well ahead of last year’s report of 53 percent, but behind the five-year average of 75 percent. Lentils made a big jump in the week ending August 14 with harvest estimated at 60 percent complete compared to just 31 percent the previous week. Dry edible beans showed a similar trend with 25 percent of the crop harvested at this point compared to just 5 percent the previous week.

Oilseed harvest has begun in parts of the state, as well. Thirty percent of canola has been harvested, which is ahead of the five-year average of 26 percent harvested by this time. Flaxseed harvest is at 19 percent complete and even mustard seed harvest is in its beginning stages with 5 percent of the crop already out of the field.  

Grasshoppers still continue to be a nuisance to growers with reports out of Golden Valley, Musselshell and Sweet Grass counties saying the insects are taking quite a toll on crops. Emily Standley, MSU Extension agent in Fergus County, in the heart of Montana, says grasshoppers have been a real issue across the county, especially to the north and east of Lewistown.

“Grasshoppers have been the biggest challenge for producers, especially since the weather actually cooperated this year after it warmed up in June,” Standley said.

It seems the race is on to see whether it will be the grasshoppers or combines, swathers, and livestock that get to the crops and forage first.  

Weather reports show that most of Montana will experience nearly triple digit heat as August winds down. Fires are still very much a concern, and although the hot and dry is great for harvesting, rangeland is starting to suffer. Relief from the intense heat will be much appreciated when it comes