Rains help flagging spring crops and range lands

Montana was unseasonably cool and wet for the first part of the week, with reports of snow in the mountains, before returning to more typical hot and dry conditions toward the end of the week, according to the Mountain Regional Field Office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service, USDA. High temperatures for the week ranged from the mid 70s to the upper 80s, and low temperatures ranged from the upper 20s to the lower 50s.

Measurable precipitation was recorded at all reporting stations this week, but varied widely in amounts, with the highest recorded coming from Zortman at 3.10 inches of moisture. The rain was well received and needed to help flagging spring crops and range lands in all but the northeastern corner of the state, where there has been a surplus of moisture leading to disease issues and problems cutting hay. Other areas received spotty precipitation and still more hail.

Soil moisture conditions improved over last week and remain above last year, with 70 percent of topsoil rated adequate to surplus and 64 percent of subsoil rated adequate to surplus, compared with 45 percent and 51 percent last year, respectively.

First cuttings of alfalfa and other hay are nearing completion ahead of last year and well ahead of the five-year average, and producers who are able have begun to harvest a second cutting of alfalfa. 

Pulse crop harvest continues ahead of the five-year average for dry peas with 6 percent harvested and right at the five-year average for lentils with 3 percent complete.

Winter wheat harvest has begun at a slower rate than last year and the five-year average, with 2 percent harvested so far. Winter wheat condition is rated 61 percent good to excellent, which is ahead of last year’s 55 percent, but below the five-year average of 63 percent. Pasture and range conditions declined from the previous week with 38 percent rated good to excellent, which was still higher than last year’s 30 percent, but below the five year average of 46 percent.

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