Montana continued experiencing hot, dry, and windy conditions from the middle to latter parts of June. Some scatterings of isolated rain storms where experienced across the central swath of Montana, but unfortunately, by and large, drought is still weighing heavily on the state’s producers.
As drought conditions continue, reports are coming in claiming that early-seeded crops seem to be doing okay, but late-seeded crops are beginning to show signs of stress.
“The winter wheat looks really good. We had adequate moisture early on and the rains have been timely and I think we are going to have a pretty good crop. The spring wheat on the other hand is getting pretty drought stressed,” said Tyler Lane, MSU Extension agent in Choteau County.
Lane has observed that the driest part of Choteau County is the southeast corner. There the producers are already starting to have issues with grasshoppers.
“We are worried these migratory grasshoppers could move into the county and perhaps do some de-heading on the wheat,” Lane added.
According to the Mountain Regional Field Office of the USDA-National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), for the week ending June 18, 50 percent of the state’s winter wheat is headed out and Lane has observed some winter wheat in his area that is already in the early stages of turning. The grasshoppers will be drawn to the green, so his biggest concern, overall, is the spring crops.
Across the state, spring wheat is a bit ahead of the game with 14 percent of the crop already headed out. That is well ahead of 2020’s report that had only 4 percent headed out at this time. Durum wheat seems to be more on track. Fifteen percent of the crop is booted, just slightly behind last year, which had 16 percent of the crop booted. Oats are coming along, too, with 20 percent of the crop booted.
Montana’s pulse crops seem to be ahead of average, as well, with 12 percent of the dry edible beans and 23 percent of the dry edible peas already blooming. Both crops have outpaced last year’s report, which had only 9 and 14 percent of the crops blooming by now, respectively. The NASS report also had lentils at 21 percent blooming.
Sugarbeets took a leap with 96 percent of the crop emerged compared to 85 percent the previous week and just behind last year at 97 percent emerged at this point. Corn production saw a similar trend. Reportedly 93 percent of the crop is now planted with 74 percent of it emerged, a big jump from the previous week’s report of 52 percent emerged.
Soil moisture continues to be a bit of a worry. Topsoil moisture conditions were rated at 43 percent adequate-to-surplus compared to 81 percent at this time in 2020. Subsoil moisture conditions were rated at 46 percent adequate-to-surplus compared to 83 percent last year at this time.
The dry conditions and lack of soil moisture have put pressures on hay supplies across the state going into the beginnings of first cutting. First cutting alfalfa is at 18 percent harvested and all other hay is at 11 percent harvested, so it may be too early to determine exactly how things will shake out.
Above normal temperatures are predicted for most of Montana leading up to the Fourth of July weekend. Many crops may not quite be “knee-high by the Fourth of July,” but thankfully, America’s farmers and ranchers are resilient and steady. The farm must go on, no matter what.