Montana has finally entered the dog days of summer, so hot and dry seems to be the name of the game. According to the latest report from the Mountain Regional Field Office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service, USDA (NASS), topsoil moisture conditions in the state for the week ending July 31 were rated at 54 percent adequate-to-surplus, which was a drastic drop from the 70 percent recorded the previous week and down from the 65 percent recorded last year at this time. Subsoil moisture conditions also declined with the latest NASS report, estimating conditions at 62 percent adequate-to-surplus compared to 77 percent the week before.
With soil and range conditions drying up, wildfires are now on the minds of most all Montana producers. Mature grain and crispy mountain grasses make for perfect fire starter, especially with dry lightning storms being a normal weather phenomenon this time of year.
“Most everyone is just sitting on pins and needles hoping a wildfire doesn’t blow up,” said Marc King, MSU Extension agent for Sweet Grass County.
King says conditions around Sweet Grass County are spotty. Along the Yellowstone River, moisture remains good and crops there were helped by an irregular rain storm at the end of July that swept along the river’s path.
“If you get two miles either side of the Yellowstone, things are looking dry,” King added.
Despite the hot and dry conditions, small grain harvest across the state continues to pick up speed. Twenty percent of winter wheat has reportedly been harvested, just slightly ahead of 2019, which estimated 19 percent of the crop harvested by this time, but behind the five-year average, which has 52 percent of the crop harvested by now. Spring wheat, barley and oat harvest are in their beginning stages, as well, with 1 percent of all three crops estimated to be harvested.
Harvesting of pulses is also rolling right along with 16 percent of lentils harvested, well ahead of last year, which estimated only 1 percent of the crop harvested, but behind the five year-average of 25 percent usually harvested by this time. Dry edible peas are estimated at 21 percent through harvest, also ahead of 2019’s harvest rate of four percent by this time, but way behind the five-year average of 42 percent harvested.
Oilseeds across Montana are beginning their final march into harvest. Forty percent of the state’s flaxseed crop has turned color, putting it just slightly off from last year’s report of 46 percent turned by now. Mustard is looking strong, however, with 65 percent of the crop already turned, well ahead of 2019, which estimated 53 percent of the crop turned by this time.
Across the state, first-cutting alfalfa is all but wrapped up and 19 percent of second-cutting is reportedly already processed. All other hay crops are reported at 12 percent through their second cut, as well.
According to the latest NASS report, range conditions across the state are rated at 57 percent good-to-excellent. Hot and dry conditions as of late have really effected pasture and range because the previous week’s report had 73 percent of range rated as good-to-excellent. The latest NASS report also said some livestock are already receiving supplemental feed due to drying conditions.
Weather will play a precarious role for Montana producers from now until early fall. Hopefully conditions will remain favorable through harvest and into fall planting.