A much needed blast of moisture was felt by growers across most of Montana at the end of June. The moisture and mild temperatures have made for ideal growing conditions, allowing crops to progress nicely as time marches on into the dog days of summer.
“We’ve had some timely rains and most farmers are smiling right now,” said Shelley Mills, MSU Extension agent in Valley County, located in northeastern Montana.
By in large, that is the general feeling across the state. According to the Mountain Regional Field Office of the USDA-National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), topsoil moisture conditions were 81 percent adequate-to-surplus and subsoil moisture conditions were at 83 percent adequate-to-surplus for the week ending June 19.
Most crops spanning the region are staying the course for a normal year. Barley is 42 percent booted compared to only 27 percent by this time last year. Corn is reported to be 80 percent emerged compared to 81 percent last year at this time. Canola, too, is progressing nicely, with 75 percent of the state’s crop estimated to be emerged with 15 percent of it already blooming. In 2019 at this time, NASS estimated canola to be 74 percent emerged with only 8 percent of the crop blooming.
For the most part, wheat too is ahead of schedule. Winter wheat is reportedly 84 percent booted with 55 percent of the crop headed out. Last year at this time, only 37 percent of the crop was estimated to be headed out at this time. Looking at spring wheat, 35 percent of the crop is booted and 5 percent has begun to head out. Last year showed 23 percent of the crop booted at this time, but NASS also reported that none of the crop had started to head out by the end of June 2019.
Durum wheat seems to be the only exception this year as the 2020 crop lags just slightly behind. The latest NASS report estimates that 76 percent of Montana’s crop has emerged, off from last year’s report of 89 percent and behind the 5-year average, which estimates 91 percent of durum to be emerged by this time. The crop is reportedly 18 percent booted compared to 7 percent last year and 21 percent normally reported by this time for the 5-year average.
Swathers are beginning to be seen aplenty in Montana fields as producers start in on the long haying season. NASS estimated in its most recent report that 15 percent of first cutting alfalfa had been harvested, just ahead of last year’s report, which showed 11 percent of the crop harvested.
Granit County Extension agent, Ben Hauptman, says hay is one of the county’s largest commodities. He is starting to get reports of producers preparing to harvest their hay. He says the hay crop is maybe just a tick ahead of schedule, but nevertheless, it is looking really good.
“I’d say our conditions are pretty good. We’ve had a lot of moisture these past two weeks,” he added.
Things are looking good across the state right now, but as any producer knows, things can change in an instant. July and August forecasts are calling for dry and hot weather conditions.
Looming in the back of everyone’s mind is the horrors of the 2019 harvest season. Early-season moisture made harvesting a chore, and as a result, the season stretched out longer. But as of late June this year, things are looking promising for Montana growers, and with a little luck, Mother Nature may just stay on everyone’s side.