Although June 21 marked the summer solstice and the longest day of the year, the weather experienced across Montana was contradictory to the norm. Snow was experienced in the higher elevations and other parts of the state experienced rain and even some hail.
Josh Wood, who ranches between Forsyth and Hysham, Mont., has been left in the lurch because torrential rain and scattered hail storms have left roads across his county nearly impassible, not a good thing when you are trying to ship the last of your cattle out to summer grass. Wood had to cancel his trucks, hoping the roads would dry out.
“We just have to hurry up and wait,” Wood stated.
Wood was not the only Montana producer put out by the unexpected flip in the weather. Across the state, growers were ready to start on first cutting alfalfa, but fields remained too wet. Park County producers even experienced freezing temperatures around the solstice, which has ultimately delayed alfalfa harvests.
“Everything is a little behind this year. We just haven’t had a string of warm days,” explained Tracy Mosley the Extension Agent for Park County, located in the southwestern portion of Montana. She predicts that first cutting in her area won’t even be ready until the middle of July.
“Producers in Park County don’t even have their equipment out yet,” Mosley mused.
According to the NASS report, only 13 percent of Montana’s first cutting alfalfa is harvested compared to 28 percent at this time last year.
The NASS report for the week ending June 21 showed the planting of oilseeds was progressing. 97 percent of the canola crop is planted, slightly ahead of last year at 94 percent, and 74 percent of the safflower crop is planted, which is just a tick behind 2018, which reported 76 percent of the crop in the ground. Flaxseed too is slightly behind with 90 percent of the crop planted compared to 93 percent in 2018.
Overall topsoil moisture conditions were rated at 78 percent adequate-to-surplus compared to 68 percent in the previous week. Subsoil moisture conditions were at 71 percent, just a bit off from last year at 79 percent adequate-to-surplus.
Winter wheat conditions were rated at 71 percent good-to-excellent, behind 2018 which rated the crop at 78 percent by this time. 89 percent of Montana’s winter wheat crop is in the boot stage with 45 percent of the crop headed out, which is behind 2018 in both categories. Last year, it was reported 92 percent of the crop was booted with 61 percent of it headed out.
Several crops saw big leaps in maturity during the week ending June 21, according to NASS. Oats were reported at 15 percent in the boot stage compared to only 2 percent the previous week. 34 percent of barley was booted compared to 10 percent the previous week, and the state finally saw 10 percent of its durum wheat crop booted. In 2018, however, 24 percent of durum wheat was reported to be booted.
For the first time in many years a lack of heat, not moisture has been the limiting growing factor. Producers around Montana are yearning for heat units and they are keeping their fingers crossed, hoping the sunshine will come.