LEDGER, Mont. – While warmer temperatures are expected during the summer months, but it seems that Mother Nature may be taking things to the extreme this year. In Montana’s Golden Triangle, this summer’s hot temperatures and constant wind bring a literal meaning to “dryland” farming.
“It has been very hot and very dry. It is like a blow torch out here,” said Cassie Andrews during a phone update on July 6.
Earlier this summer, a well-seeded crop coupled with timely moisture had Cassie and her family very optimistic going into the growing season. As June melted into July, however, Cassie began to notice the heat was affecting the crops.
“Two weeks ago everything was doing fine and now it has flip-flopped and stuff is just burning up. It’s amazing how fast things can turn,” she stated.
Cassie says the hot, dry weather has stunted growth on her spring wheat crop, so it is short, yet already heading out. On the other hand, the winter wheat seems to be holding out and Cassie predicts it should be an average crop this year. The winter wheat is actually just beginning to turn, so she estimates harvest will start in about three weeks or so.
“A lot of years we begin harvest the first week of August. I think we will be cutting winter wheat maybe by the end of July, so it won’t be too early,” Cassie said.
Looking at the spring wheat though, Cassie thinks it will be ready earlier than normal, so there is a good chance she will roll right out of winter wheat harvest and into spring wheat harvest.
With some leftover wheat in the bins and harvest just around the corner, Cassie has been thinking hard about marketing her wheat. Around the Fourth of July is usually a good time to sell wheat, but Cassie has been diligently watching the markets and wheat prices keep bouncing from limit up to limit down and back. Knowing exactly when to pull the trigger and for how many bushels of wheat is something she is currently contemplating.
“My goal in the next couple weeks is to speculate what I am going to make bushel wise and sell about a third of my wheat,” she revealed.
In addition to praying for rain and staring at turbulent market reports, Cassie, her brother, Brett, and father, Terry, have remained busy scouting fields. The trio have been dealing with resistant Kochia on some of their chem-fallow and the battle seems to be relentless.
“We spray our fields and then we have to go out and see what is not dying so we can make a plan on how to kill it,” she explained.
Chemicals are not cheap, but Kochia, especially resistant Kochia, is a wheat farmer’s worst nightmare, so Cassie and her family really feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. They are not afraid to pull out all the stops when it comes to mitigating the spread of resistant Kochia, even if it means attacking the plants with a shovel.
After all, farmers really are just large scale gardeners.
Looking ahead Cassie, Brett and Terry will start getting things lined up for harvest. There is some holdover grain to haul, bins to clean out and of course, equipment to service. Cassie says right now is like the calm before the storm, so the best thing for her to do is stay busy puttering around the farm to avoid getting too antsy about the upcoming harvest madness.