canola field (copy)

In a good year, green leaves in a canola field hide all traces of the soil beneath, as in this photo taken by USDA-ARS researcher Brett Allen.

The condition of spring wheat and durum continued to fall this week in North Dakota, according to the latest USDA Crop Progress report, while in Montana it rose slightly. That was thanks to timely rain for many of that state's growers — though not necessarily those in Sidney. That area, this week remains in an area of abnormal dryness on the U.S. Drought Monitor.

North Dakota spring wheat was rated 69 percent good to excellent this week, down from 78 percent last week. Spring wheat in Montana, meanwhile, is 85 percent good to excellent versus 84 percent last week.

Durum is rated 51 percent good to excellent in North Dakota, down from 73 percent last week. In Montana, just 19 percent of the crop was rated good to excellent, with the remainder fair.

Winter wheat is 55 percent good to excellent in North Dakota and 85 percent good to excellent in Montana.

Jointed was 96 percent in North Dakota, ahead of 91 percent last year, and equal to the five-year average, and 67 percent headed out, ahead of 45 percent last year, and ahead of the 61 percent average while in Montana, winter wheat is 84 percent booted and 55 percent headed. The latter is well behind the five-year 72 percent average.

Wheat producers throughout the region are reporting short stands and smaller heads, according to the USDA report, a symptom of the dry conditions after a spring abnormally short on rain.

About 36 percent of North Dakota is now under drought, according to NDSU weather data, which is 6 percent more than last week. The map now shows a little more than half of Williams County in a moderate drought to the west. The rest is abnormally dry to the east, and that area now extends well past Sidney in Montana.

Most of Williams County has received 25 to 50 percent of its normal precipitation for March to mid-June, according to NOAA data prepared by state meteorologist Adnan Akyuz. It’s also the 10th driest spring on record for the northwest North Dakota region.

That’s probably already taken the top off yield for some growers, NDSU Extension Agronomist Joel Ransom said in one of the state’s weekly agricultural reports, but it’s not yet too late for a reasonably good crop.

Rain any time in the next two to three weeks could turn the situation around dramatically.

Williston Research Extension Center cropping specialist and Extension Agent Clair Keene said fields she’s visited here are beginning to show some signs of drought stress, with lower leaves drying up on some stands and early heading on short plants in others.

“We have some wheat on station that is starting to head out at 12 inches,” she said. “I haven’t seen any wilted fields yet. But they are definitely stressed, and the development has been pushed up due to lack of moisture.”

The dry conditions are affecting other crops adversely, too, Keene said.

Canola fields are flowering early, and while there’s usually a healthy carpet of green to cover the soil, this year, bare patches of ground are visible in the fields.

“That means they didn’t have the moisture to make big leaves to cover the ground,” she said. “If we were to get rain now, that would help canola set as many seeds as they can. That could help. But we are getting close to the end of the critical period for rain. If we get hit this week or next week, we might still pull off average yields. But the window on that is closing. Mid-July will be too late.”

North Dakota sunflowers, among the few crops that have penciled to profits in 2020, are now 89 percent planted, near 90 percent last year, and slightly behind the five-year 96 percent average. Emerged is 64 percent, behind 69 percent last year and the 79 percent average.

Nationally, sunflowers are at about 89 percent of the USDA projection for planted acres, but right at the five-year 1.3 million average.

They, too, could face yield drag, with much of their territory in dry areas.

Here’s a look at how other crops are faring:

North Dakota soybeans are 71 percent good to excellent. They are 95 percent planted, which is just behind the five-year 99 percent average. Seventy-nine percent has emerged, behind 87 percent last year, and the 93 percent average.

Corn in North Dakota, meanwhile, is 69 percent good to excellent. Ninety-seven percent has been planted, near 99 percent last year and the five-year 100 percent average. Emerged is 87 percent, which is behind 92 percent last year and the five-year 97 percent average.

In Montana, corn is 80 percent emerged, slightly ahead of last year’s 81 percent, but behind the five-year 91 percent average. The condition is 73 percent good to excellent.

North Dakota Canola is 71 percent good to excellent. Emerged is 95 percent, near 96 percent last year. Blooming is 9 percent, ahead of 4 percent last year, but behind the 19 percent average.

Montana canola, meanwhile, is 95 percent planted, equal with last year and the five-year average, and is 75 percent emerged, which is slightly ahead of last year’s 74 percent, but behind the five-year 84 percent average. Blooming is 15 percent, ahead of last year’s 8 percent.

Montana sugar beets are rated 84 percent good to excellent, with 98 percent of the crop out of the ground. That emergence is ahead of 90 percent last year.

In North Dakota, meanwhile, sugar beets are rated 97 percent good to excellent, with just over half in the excellent category.

Montana safflower is 75 percent planted, 58 percent emerged and 2 percent blooming. These figures are all ahead of last year and are very near five-year averages.

North Dakota Oats are 62 percent good to excellent, with emerged near 93 percent. That’s near 95 percent last year, and the five-year 97 percent average. Headed is 6 percent, ahead of last year’s 2 percent, but behind the five-year 19 percent average.

Montana oats, meanwhile, are 95 percent emerged and 23 percent booted. Emergence is ahead of last year’s 89 percent and the five-year average 92 percent, but booting is well behind the five-year 39 percent average.

Barley is 75 percent good to excellent, with 93 percent of the crop emerged. That’s tracking slightly behind last year’s 97 percent, and the five-year 99 percent average. Jointed is 48 percent also behind last year’s 58 percent and well behind the five-year 75 percent average. Headed is 4 percent, ahead of last year’s 1 percent, but well behind the five-year 17 percent average.

Montana barley, meanwhile, is 42 percent booted and 6 percent headed, well ahead of last year’s 27 and 1 percent respectively, but well behind the five-year 55 percent and 15 percent averages.

Dry edible peas in North Dakota are 72 percent good to excellent with 95 percent of the crop emerged. That’s slightly ahead of last year’s 92 percent emergence. Blooming is 18 percent, also ahead of last year’s 12 percent, but well behind the five-year 30 percent average.

In Montana, dry edible peas are 95 percent emerged, slightly ahead of last year’s 92 percent, and near the five-year 96 percent average. The condition is rated 67 percent good to excellent.

North Dakota Flaxseed is 72 percent good to excellent, with 95 percent emerged, near last year’s 92 percent emergency. Blooming is 5 percent, near last year’s 3 percent, and the five-year 6 percent average.

In Montana, Flaxseed is 78 percent emerged, ahead of last year’s 66 percent and slightly behind the five-year 84 percent average.

North Dakota potato is 65 percent good to excellent, with 81 percent of the crop emerged. Emergence is well behind last year’s 97 percent, and the five-year 96 percent average.

Montana lentils are 85 percent emerged, behind 91 percent last year and the five-year 95 percent average. Blooming is 13 percent, ahead of last year’s 4 percent but well behind the five-year 31 percent average.

Montana mustard, meanwhile, is 89 percent emerged, ahead of last year’s 83 percent and the five-year 84 percent average. Twenty percent are blooming.

Dry edible beans in North Dakota are 72 percent good to excellent, with 78 percent of the crop out of the ground. Emergence is behind the 89 percent average last year and the five-year 92 percent average.

In Montana, dry edible beans are 79 percent emerged and 10 percent blooming. That compares with 76 percent emerged last year and the five-year 82 percent average.

Alfalfa is 49 percent good to excellent in North Dakota. The first cutting is at 37 percent, which is well ahead of 9 percent last year, and is slightly ahead of the five-year 31 percent average.

In Montana, alfalfa’s first cut is at 15 percent, which is close to last year’s 11 percent.

Pasture and range in North Dakota are 52 percent good to excellent, with 15 percent poor to very poor. Stock water supplies are 82 percent adequate to surplus, with 18 percent short or very short.

In Montana, pasture and range are 62 percent good to fair, behind last year’s 69 percent, but ahead of the five-year 55 percent average.

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