Although the state of Montana remains dry with the latest U.S. Drought Monitor classifying 34 percent of the state in severe or exceptional drought, moisture was experienced across much of the state the end of the first week of May.
“The rain we got is going to help green the grass up, but when you look over the past couple of months and our winter, we could sure use a couple more inches of moisture to be really safe,” said Jaycee Shearer, Dawson County Extension agent.
Shearer said producers across her county are relatively used to turbulent weather and dry conditions, so they have grown accustom to rolling with the punches. There was some unease about the lack of moisture, but the small blast received in the county on May 8 did much for bolstering spirits.
In addition to being dry, Montana has been slow to warm up. The lack of heat has slowed the growth and greening of forage and crops. Kim Woodring, Extension agent in Toole County, reported things are starting to turn around in her neck of the woods.
“We are pretty dry, but stuff is starting to green up,” she said.
Woodring went on to say planting has pretty well wrapped up in the county. The open winter was conducive to getting seed in early in the hopes of taking advantage of early spring rains.
By and large, planting had been trickling along, but producers across the state made a dedicated push to get seed in before the anticipated moisture front moved across the state the second weekend in May.
Small grain seeding took a big jump the week ending May 7, according to the Mountain Regional Field Office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). Barley planting is estimated at 58 percent compete, up from 38 percent the previous week. Durum acres planted nearly doubled from 16 percent compete to 30 percent complete. Spring wheat planting has also increased significantly and is now estimated at 53 percent complete, which is ahead of last year’s report of 48 percent and just ahead of the five-year average of 52 percent planted by this time.
Montana’s winter wheat crop certainly enjoyed the early May rain showers as 95 percent of the crop has reportedly broke dormancy. The 2021 crop is rated 49 percent good-to-excellent, which is behind last year’s crop that was rated at 64 percent good-to-excellent at this time.
Pulse crop planting across Montana is also progressing nicely. Twenty-seven percent of dry edible beans and 53 percent of dry edible peas are already in the ground. Seeding of lentils is right on track with last year’s report with 42 percent of the crop seeded at this time.
The current NASS report shows 43 percent of sugarbeets are planted, behind last year’s report of 61 percent planted at this time and off from the five-year average of 65 percent. Corn planting shows a similar trend with 18 percent of the crop in the ground compared to 33 percent planted by this time last year.
The drought across Montana has severely impacted range conditions with only a mere 14 percent of pasture and range rated as good-to-excellent. This compares starkly to last year’s report, which estimated 53 percent of range and pasture in the good-to-excellent category at this time. Despite poorer range conditions, cattle trucks are starting to be seen crisscrossing the state as pairs begin trickling to summer pasture.
Producers across the state are hopeful more moisture will fall in the remaining days of May. That, coupled with a couple good growing days, should significantly help range conditions and progress crops.