It is starting to look like harvest season across Montana. There were finally some favorable field days observed across the region and the sunshine allowed crops to reach maturity as farmers prepare for harvest.
Mat Walter, MSU Extension agent in Teton County, noted that producers in his area are just now starting to cut winter wheat, which is a little later than normal. He has observed that a lot of producers are swathing their winter wheat this year, which could mean growers are trying to give their wheat more of a chance to dry before it is run through a combine. Walter also mentioned there is a lot of green barley still in the county.
“This cool weather has really put us behind,” Walter expressed.
Teton County is located in north central Montana and is known for its malt barley and wheat production. The cool weather experienced across the state for most of the year may not have been ideal for growing crops but rangeland is looking great and Walter agreed that livestock producers in his county are relatively pleased with the range conditions.
“It’s been a great grass year,” He said.
According to the National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) Montana Crop Report for the week ending Aug. 2, 61 percent of rangeland is still rated as good, while 8 percent rates excellent. Those numbers are ahead of last year’s numbers and the five-year average. In 2018, 46 percent of rangeland rated as good and 5 percent as excellent. The five-year average lists 29 percent of rangeland good, while only 4 percent usually rates excellent at this time.
Topsoil moisture conditions for the state were 65 percent adequate-to-surplus, compared to 74 percent in the previous week and 49 percent the previous year. Subsoil moisture conditions were rated as 64 percent adequate-to-surplus compared to 48 percent in 2018.
First cutting alfalfa harvest is winding down as NASS reported it is 94 percent complete, taking a jump from the previous week’s report of 86 percent. Second cutting is just starting in some parts with 3 percent of it harvested, drastically behind 2018 which had 56 percent of the crop harvested by this time.
86 percent of the state’s barley has changed color, slightly ahead of last year which reported 84 percent of the crop changed by this time. 57 percent of Montana’s 2019 barley crop is rated good, while 14 percent is rated excellent compared to 50 percent good and 18 percent excellent in 2018.
The winter wheat crop continues to hold steady as well. 36 percent of the crop is rated good, while 36 percent is still rated as excellent. NASS reports that 96 percent of the crop has changed color and 26 percent of it has been harvested, taking a huge jump from the previous week where only 1 percent of the crop was estimated to be harvested.
Pulses are in the early stages of harvest so it seems. 2 percent of the lentil crop has been processed compared to 17 percent by this time last year. 6 percent of dry edible peas have been harvested, also behind 2018’s report of 33 percent. 73 percent of the dry edible beans have begun to bloom, so they too are inching closer to harvest.
Durum wheat is looking strong, especially when compared to 2018. 63 percent of the crop is rated as good, while 14 percent is reported to be excellent. Last year at this time, 44 percent of the crop was good and only 10 percent rated excellent. 96 percent of Montana’s durum wheat is headed out, slightly ahead of the previous year which reported 95 percent of the crop headed out. 58 percent has changed color compared to 72 percent in 2018.
65 percent of spring wheat has changed color with 1 percent of the crop reported to be harvested. In the previous year, 84 percent of the crop had turned color by now and 7 percent had been harvested.
Producers continue to keep their fingers crossed in the hopes the weather will hold through harvest. Time will tell how the unseasonable cool growing season will affect yields but growers remain optimistic.