Wheat harvest is well underway, and with hot and excessively dry conditions being experienced across the state, harvest has been progressing faster than it ever has in the past five years. The drought conditions, now being experienced across 100 percent of Montana, had many producers worried what the 2021 harvest may look like.
While some producers are experiencing as much as a 50 percent loss in yield this year, test weights and protein levels have fared surprisingly well. With harvest clipping along and on course to finish earlier than normal, producers will soon be turning their attention to planting.
Heather Unverzagt, director of the Montana Seed Growers Association, encourages producers to really be thoughtful in their planting plans looking ahead. Extenuating circumstances like grasshoppers, drought, and high grain prices earlier on in the season have put pressure on seed supplies.
These are just the things that are known, and Unverzagt is quick to point out that harvest is not over yet.
“There are still a lot of unknowns,” she said. “What people are going to be able to harvest and what are spring wheat yields going to look like?”
Her take home point is to not wait until the last minute to order seed as current conditions are likely pointing to tighter winter and spring wheat seed supplies.
“We’ve gotten a lot of calls and people are already beginning to look for spring wheat seed,” Unverzagt said.
While growers are optimistic this drought will break by spring planting of 2022, the immediate forecast does not bode well for getting the moisture required to plant winter wheat this fall.
“Right now, with the amount of grasshoppers and no rain, we just haven’t gotten a lot of calls about winter wheat,” Unverzagt observed.
Of course, if Mother Nature does decided to open the flood gates a bit, sentiments might change and winter wheat planting may become a more viable option.
Due to the current predicament, many growers may be considering planting their own seed. While this is an answer to the seed shortage, Unverzagt cautions producers to really look at their seed agreements as many varieties on the market today do not allow plant backs.
“Before a grower holds on and saves their own seed, they want to make sure it is a public variety and not a private variety that may have a contractual agreements attached,” she added.
MSU and NDSU varieties, Unverzagt said, do allow growers to save back their own seed. If any questions about seed agreements do arise, she says to not hesitate to reach out to your local seed dealer or the Montana Seed Growers Association.
Planting of certified seed is always preferred, but if a grower does choose to plant back their own seed, Unverzagt highly encourages having the seed tested for purity and germination beforehand.
Being faced with a challenging year is frustrating, no doubt, so preparedness will be key going forward. Don’t wait until next spring and expect ample supply of seed, Unverzagt said. Call seed dealers now and at least begin the inquiry process.
Both the fall and spring seed directories are posted online at mtseedgrowers.org. For any seed-related questions, please reach out to the Montana Seed Growers Association.