After a June and July plagued with record-high temperatures, Montana producers gave a sigh of relief as temperatures began to cool around the end of August. Finally, it seems, the dog days of summer are relenting.
Across much of the state, scattered rainstorms lifted spirits and even made the prospect of planting winter wheat more plausible. Although the rain was welcome, and in many places even significant, 99 percent of Montana still remains in severe-to-exceptional drought.
According to the Mountain Regional Field Office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), for the week ending Aug. 27, topsoil and subsoil moisture conditions both held steady compared to the previous week coming in at 11 percent and 9 percent respectively. Both, unfortunately, are well below average. The five-year average has both topsoil and subsoil moisture conditions normally rated at 40 percent adequate-to-surplus at this time.
The dry conditions earlier this growing season led to quicker crop progression. Harvest began early across the state, and therefore, by the end of August the harvesting of most crops was on the home stretch.
Winter wheat harvest is complete around the state. Producers across the board report the crop came through this year’s drought reasonably well, all things considered. Spring wheat harvest took a big jump, according to the latest NASS report, with an estimated 85 percent of the crop harvested compared to 69 percent the previous week and well ahead of 2020, which reported 71 percent of the crop harvested at this time.
Durum harvest continues to clip along with 69 percent of the crop harvested compared to just 44 percent at this time in 2020. Oat harvest is at 71 percent, progressing nicely from 58 percent the previous week and actually slightly ahead of the five-year average, which notes that usually 70 percent of the crop is harvested at this time.
Pulse crop harvest is entering its final days. The NASS report, for the week ending Aug. 27, has 95 percent of lentils and 98 percent of dry edible peas harvested. Harvest of dry edible beans is an estimated 59 percent complete, only a bit ahead of last year’s report, which had 52 percent of the crop harvested at this time.
Oilseed harvest is advancing more comparably to previous years. Safflower harvest is at 20 percent, just ahead of 2020’s harvest, which had 18 percent of the crop off the field at this point. Mustard harvest is just over halfway done at 55 percent, compared to 51 percent last year and 53 percent for the five-year average.
Flaxseed and canola seem to be the exception as both oilseeds are well ahead of normal this harvest season. Flaxseed harvest is an estimated 57 percent complete compared to 36 percent last year and canola harvest is at 58 percent complete compared 49 percent complete at this time in 2020.
Corn harvest has just begun with 10 percent of the crop already harvested for silage. The crop is rated 29 percent good-to-excellent, an improvement over the previous week’s report, which had Montana’s corn crop rated at 18 percent adequate-to-surplus.
Pasture and range conditions also saw a slight improvement thanks to the August rainstorms. The current report rates 90 percent of Montana range in the poor-to-very poor category, up from 97 percent the previous week.
The current state of the pasture and rangeland has forced more producers to bring their livestock home and put them on supplemental feed. Twenty percent of cattle and 15 percent of sheep have now been moved off of their summer range.
The summer of 2021 is certainly one for the record books, but with wheat harvest wrapping up it is now time to switch gears and begin looking eagerly to the promise of yet another year in production agriculture.