Consistent precipitation throughout parts of Montana over the summer has surely created its challenges for growers this season, especially for those trying to harvest first cutting alfalfa.

Across the state it is reported that 71 percent of first cutting alfalfa has been harvested. Last year at this time it was reported that 92 percent of the crop was processed. 62 percent of other hay is reported to be completed with first cutting, also behind 2018’s report of 90 percent complete by this time.

“This has probably been the most challenging haying season ever. We have had more rain in June and July then we have seen in the past decade, maybe even the past century,” said Mary Rumph, MSU Extension agent for Powder River County, located in southeastern Montana.

Rumph expressed how disheartened producers in her area are feeling. The early moisture produced a record alfalfa crop, but the rain has not let up and as a result, most of the first cutting harvested in her area can’t even be used for feed.

“Producers are just sacrificing what they are taking off the field,” Rumph stated. Some growers in her area have reported that second cutting is starting to grow up past the windrows of first cutting.

Rumph did go on to explain that pasture land is looking phenomenal for this time of year, so that eases the burden for some producers. The other forage crops are looking good and producers have reported they have been able to bale a good portion of it without any issues.

For producers in Judith Basin County, located in the heart of Montana, it’s a matter of surviving the hail storms that are dancing around the region.

“Now is when it really makes a mess if it hails,” Judith Basin Extension agent, Katie Hatlelid explained. Winter wheat in her area is just starting to turn so harvest is not too far away.

Spring crops in Judith Basin went in late this year because of early spring moisture delays, but Hatlelid says the crops are really starting to look good even though they may be a little behind from previous years.

According to the National Agriculture Statistics Service Montana Crop Progress Report for the week ending July 19, topsoil moisture conditions took a boost, rating 81 percent adequate-to-surplus compared to 77 percent the previous week and only 50 percent the previous year. Subsoil moisture conditions were also holding steady at 74 percent adequate-to-surplus compared to 58 percent the previous year.

27 percent of barley across Montana is starting to turn color, taking a jump from the previous week which only reported 9 percent of the crop changing. The crop is still behind last year, which reported 54 percent of the crop turned by this time. Montana’s barley crop is rated at 42 percent good, taking a slight fall from the previous week at 49 percent.

Winter wheat is only slightly behind last year, reporting 73 percent of the crop turning color, while in 2018 the crop was 85 percent turned at this time. 30 percent of the crop is rated good while 22 percent is rated as excellent.

Pulse crops across the region are also slightly off from 2018 with the exception of dry edible peas. The crop is reported to be 97 percent bloomed, just slightly ahead of last year at 96 percent. Dry edible beans are only 45 percent bloomed when last year at this time they were reported at 94 and lentils too are behind 2018, reporting 88 percent of the crop bloomed compared to 94 percent the previous year.

Oilseeds throughout the state are looking strong. 93 percent of the canola crop is blooming with 36 percent of the crop starting to turn. Last year only 91 percent of the crop was blooming by this time with 48 percent of the crop changing color. 79 percent of the state’s flaxseed crop is blooming with 2 percent of the crop changing color. 30 percent of the safflower crop is also blooming, behind last year’s report of 53 percent.

Spring wheat too is looking good heading into late summer. 87 percent of the crop is headed out, just slightly behind last year’s report of 88 percent. 53 percent of the crop is rated as good, dipping from the previous week at 59 percent.

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