Much of Montana finally received a greatly appreciated blast of moisture around Labor Day. Snow was reported in areas of higher elevations, while most of the eastern part of the state enjoyed a good rain. The precipitation helped out soil conditions throughout the state, as well.
According to the Mountain Regional Field Office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), for the week ending Sept. 11, topsoil moisture conditions were rated 36 percent adequate-to-surplus compared to 26 percent the week before. Subsoil conditions saw a boost as well, rating 41 percent adequate-to-surplus compared to 39 percent the previous week.
When compared to last year, however, it is a stark reminder of just how dry conditions across Montana were becoming. In 2019 at this time, topsoil moisture was at 87 percent adequate-to-surplus and subsoil moisture was at 73 percent.
Small grain harvest across the Big Sky State is nearing an end. Spring wheat harvested is at 92 percent compared to just 67 percent the previous year and 88 percent for the five-year average. Oat harvest too is ahead of 2019 with 90 percent of the crop harvested compared to 83 percent by this time last year. Durum harvest is going well this year with 80 percent of the crop harvested compared to just 43 percent in 2019.
Winter wheat harvest is shown as complete, according to the latest NASS report, and 13 percent of next year’s crop has already been planted, well ahead of 2019, which reported only four percent of the crop planted by now.
Harvesting conditions for oilseeds has also been favorable, and across the board, all crops are ahead of 2019 and closer to being in line with their five-year averages. Canola is 74 percent harvested, well ahead of the 59 percent reported last year and just off of the five-year average of 79 percent harvested by this time. Safflower harvested is at 30 percent, ahead of last year and the five-year average of 14 and 26 percent respectively. Mustard harvested is at 76 percent and flax seed is estimated to be 70 percent through harvest.
Pulse crop harvesting is drawing to a close with only dry edible beans listed on the latest NASS report for the week ending Sept. 11. And at that, dry edible bean harvest is at 73 percent complete, which is ahead of last year’s report of 56 percent harvested by this time and behind the five-year average, which has 80 percent of the crop usually harvested at this time.
Haying across the state is winding down with producers now shifting their focus to hauling, stacking, and selling their crops. Dry conditions and grasshoppers in parts of the state compromised some of this year’s hay crop, but overall, reports are that tonnage and quality has been about average.
Montana’s major fall crops are ramping up harvest as roads are now busy with silage and beet trucks. While driving along I-94, one can see many beet dumps up and running as the mounds of sugarbeets are starting to grow. The state’s sugarbeet crop is predicted to be a great one with 76 percent of the crop rated at good-to-excellent, according to the latest NASS report. This is compared to 67 percent last year and 64 percent for the five-year average.
Corn harvested for silage is at 34 percent, slightly ahead of 2019, which estimated 27 percent of the crop harvested at this time. Corn harvested for grain is beginning early this year with three percent of harvest complete.
Montana got awfully dry this summer and the grasshopper infestation experienced by many was less than ideal. Despite these challenges, 2020 harvest has gone relatively smoothly with desirable field days experienced for most of the season. Corn and sugarbeet harvest will continue and processing calves and lambs for fall shipping will be starting soon, as well. This is the time when all the year’s hard work is accumulated and although 2020 has been an unprecedented year, Montana’s farmers and ranchers made it through and they will be primed and ready for 2021.