It seems like warm weather finally hit Montana, just in time for Labor Day – the unofficial end of summer. Warmer then average temperatures were experienced across the state as August wrapped up, turning rangeland and drying up soil. The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), USDA Crop and Conditions Report for the week ending Aug. 30, showed topsoil moisture conditions at 69 percent adequate-to-surplus compared to 72 percent in the previous week. Subsoil moisture conditions also took a dip to 65 percent adequate-to-surplus.
Across the region, Montana State University Extension agents continue to report that things are late. Ken Nelson, Extension agent in McCone County, located in northeastern Montana, south of the Missouri River, said that harvest is progressing slowly.
“We had a lot of rain in late July/early August, so stuff stayed greener longer,” Nelson explained.
Nelson estimates that only about one third of the county’s spring wheat has been harvested when usually by this time, harvest is wrapping up. There is a little bit of winter wheat grown in this area and Nelson stated that crop was harvested without much trouble. Producers didn’t seem to have much trouble harvesting the peas or lentils in that area either. Nelson hasn’t received any yield reports yet, but looking out across the county, he believes things look to be about average.
“Everyone’s too busy trying to get harvest done, so they aren’t in town bragging about it,” Nelson said with a chuckle.
Nelson has been a county Extension agent for nearly 36 years and it in all that time, he can only remember two other years where harvest has been pushed back like it has this year. He pointed out that the dew is heavier this time of year, staying on the crop longer in the morning and coming on sooner at night so harvest days are being cut short.
Fall is a busy time of year for Montana producers, but it can also be the most rewarding. According to the latest NASS Report, 68 percent of Montana’s barley crop has been harvested, slightly behind 2018 which reported 71 percent of the crop harvested at this time.
Pulse crop harvest continues to trudge along as well with dry edible peas leading the pack at 83 percent harvested. 74 percent of Montana’s lentil crop has been harvested while only 30 percent of dry edible beans have been harvested. All three crops are behind when compared to last year. 91 percent of dry edible peas, 85 percent of lentils and 47 percent of dry edible beans where harvested by this time in 2018.
Only 26 percent of Durum wheat has been harvested, far behind 2018 which reported 61 percent of the crop harvested at this time. However, 48 percent of the Durum crop is rated good and 9 percent is still excellent compared to 44 percent good and only 4 percent excellent in 2018.
Spring wheat harvest is lagging as well. NASS reports that 46 percent of the crop is harvested while 73 percent was reportedly harvested by this time last year. The spring wheat is holding steady quality wise though with 50 percent of the crop rated good while 10 percent remains excellent.
Winter wheat harvest is drawing to a close with 84 percent of the crop safely out of the field. The five-year average shows that usually 97 percent of winter wheat is harvested by this time.
The biggest concern associated with this delayed harvest season is the fact it is drawing closer to fall seeding time. Pondera County Extension agent, Adriane Good admitted this has become an issue for growers in the Golden Triangle. Producers may need to be creative and find ways to divide and conquer, or at least hope the weather remains nice so they can hustle through the remainder are harvest.