After a dry winter and spring, producers across Montana leaped for joy as a storm movement swept across the state during the week ending May 21, bringing much needed precipitation. It didn’t matter if the precipitation fell in the form of snow or rain, everyone was simply happy to receive it.
“The storm settled in last Thursday morning (May 20) and I would say throughout the county we got anywhere from 1-2 inches. We were very desperate. We need it really bad,” said Inga Hawbaker, MSU Extension agent in Daniels County, during a phone interview on Monday, May 24.
Daniels County, located in Montana’s northeast corner, is predominately wheat and pulse country with some flax and mustard planted in the area, as well. Since early spring, Daniels County has been rated as D3 in terms of drought. Although this storm wasn’t quite enough to right the ship, it was enough to give some hope to farmers in the area.
With temperatures predicted to remain low for the rest of May, Hawbaker hoped the cloud cover would allow the moisture to sink in slowly, giving the crops and rangeland a chance to really take advantage of it.
Over in the central part of the state, Wheatland County Extension agent Mandie Reed reported her county received moisture too, but it was accompanied by below-freezing temperatures.
“It got pretty cold. We were down to 24 degrees for a couple of days. I am not sure yet how that affected the crops,” she said.
Reed did notice that the cold snap froze some of the trees in her newly-planted windbreak, so she was expecting some leaf and branch loss. Producers in Wheatland County seemed to be waiting to see how the crops handled the sub-freezing temperatures.
Across the state, soil moisture improved thanks to the storm. According to the Mountain Regional Field Office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service, USDA, for the week ending May 21, topsoil moisture conditions bumped to 63 percent adequate-to-surplus compared to 42 percent the previous week. Subsoil moisture levels saw a slight bump, as well, rating 43 percent adequate-to-surplus compared to 37 percent the previous week.
Planting of small grains progressed nicely for the week ending May 21. Barley was reported at 83 percent planted with 58 percent of the crop already emerged. Both planting and emergence were right on track with their five-year average for the crop. Durum saw a big week, as well, progressing from 44 percent planted to 64 percent. Twenty-six percent of the crop is emerged, slightly ahead of last year’s report, which had 24 percent of the crop emerged at this time. Spring wheat planting is on its final march to the finish line with 87 percent of the crop in the ground and 58 percent already emerged.
Pulse crop planting seems to be lagging just a bit so far this year. Seventy-six percent of lentils have been planted compared to 83 percent by this time last year. Dry edible peas show a similar trend with 80 percent of the crop planted, behind last year’s report of 87 percent and the five-year average of 89 percent. Only 64 percent of dry edible beans are reportedly planted, well behind last year’s report of 76 percent.
Planting of oilseeds continues to march along. Canola acres are just over halfway in at 57 percent with 19 percent of the crop emerged. Flaxseed is 63 percent planted with an impressive 25 percent of the crop reportedly already emerged. Mustard is at 65 percent planted with 30 percent of the crop emerged.
Sugarbeets and corn are both behind last year’s report at 81 percent and 56 percent planted, respectfully. Last year at this time, 94 percent of sugarbeets and 76 percent of corn had already been planted.
Livestock are heading to summer grass with 66 percent of cows/calves kicked out and 95 percent of ewes/lambs. The drought has affected pasture conditions with only 14 percent of rangeland rated as good-to-excellent.
Producers across the state are thankful for the moisture they received and are looking forward to wrapping up planting.