While it is a given harvest will happen close to the fall, there is not an exact date for when it will take place. Factors of spring weather, summer moisture, storms and insects, all play a role in harvest time and yields in the end.
“Harvest seems to be getting started slower this year,” said Todd Eney, Partner of Eney Farms. “The cool, early summer has delayed most of the crops across the country. We were able to get our yellow peas harvested in early August, but have been waiting on winter wheat and barley to ripen,” said Eney.
“We were able to start cutting winter wheat on Aug. 20 and are hoping to get through winter wheat and move right into our malt barley and spring wheat. For the most part what I am seeing is harvest just barely getting started in Glacier County with a lot of the pulse crops being harvested first,” he added.
“Harvest as of now, is about 25 percent complete,” said Chuck Gatzemeier, Certified Crop Adviser and owner of CG Ag Consulting in Cut Bank. “We have multiple crops maturing at the same time, those being winter wheat, barley, green and yellow peas. The rest of the crops– spring wheat, chickpeas, flax, mustard and canola–are not far behind. All areas of Glacier County have combines running, although the early morning dews are slowing progress.”
“We are quite a bit later harvesting this year for several reasons,” said Roger Czech, Columbia Grain, LLC in Cut Bank. “Seeding was delayed this spring because of weather and for that same reason, the winter wheat maturity was slowed down. The spring seemed to be cooler and last longer than normal and again, seemed to delay things. The pulse crops (peas, dry beans, lentils and chickpeas) have been first in a lot of cases and now the winter wheat and barley. The winter wheat is struggling to ripen, but with a little patience, it will happen.”
Some areas of Glacier County received rain through the growing season, others did not fair as well and even some, reported damages from hail. But according to Gatzemeier, “Glacier County has been fortunate so far as far as damaging storms go. There has been spotty hail, but damage has been very light and showers were various and not widespread during the growing season.”
Gatzemeier continued, “The cooler temps in July and August and the early spring rains have helped the crops cope with the limited soil moisture and yields so far are surprisingly good.”
Eney noted, “We have not had any damage on our farm in northeastern Glacier County, moisture, however, has been the big issue. We started the spring off in really good conditions with lots of moisture carryover from last winter, but June and July in northern Glacier County was extremely dry. Showers that came through during that period carried very little rain potential. We have actually received more rain in the month of August on our farm than we did in June and July, combined. The recent rains, however, are helping.”
“We are drying up as we speak,” said Czech. “Many are wondering about seeding winter wheat this fall unless we get more sub moisture.”
Czech continued, “The lack of soil moisture and delayed crop timing along with low prices are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what producers are looking at in Glacier County. The sawfly problem in parts of the county is very bad and causing a lot of lost production.”
According to Czech, The grasshoppers are causing a lot of heads to drop to the ground while the hoppers look for the last green spot to chew on where the head meets the stalk. The hoppers will also be a concern when it comes time to think about seeding the winter wheat this fall. There are a great many concerns that we, as consumers, don’t think about when we butter that piece of toast in the morning.”
“Grasshoppers are the worst they have been in many years,” Gatzemeier concurred. “Anyone planning to seed winter wheat needs to use an insecticide with their seed treat to protect their emerging wheat this fall. Waiting until the wheat emerges and spraying at that time doesn’t work as well because you have to spray at least weekly until a frost and damage will still occur.”
As if the insects and moisture issues are not enough to deal with, producers are also dealing with prices for their yields being low.
“Prices for crops are all significantly down from where they were a year ago,” Eney said. “Typically, around harvest time is when we see the lowest prices of the growing season. It is a very stressful and frustrating time right now in agriculture. Farmers across the country are losing money on every load of grain. The markets are something that cannot be controlled by us, so it is about trying to cut back on operating expenses to help our bottom line.”
“The prices we are seeing for the farmer’s production is not at all good,” Czech stated. “The pulse prices at this point are poor and the movement very slow to stagnant. The sad part is that between what pulse crops are in the bin from last year and the large production, it looks like it will be some time before we see much recovery in the price. The whole grains are not much better.”
“Prices for all crops and cattle are very low right now,” said Gatzemeier. “We have a surplus of most crops and the demand is not meeting the supply, so prices are low. The short-term crystal ball is foggy at best. There are spot markets for different commodities and we are trying to get our customers in line with these markets to help their cash flow.”
Gatzemeier is right, the crystal ball for farmers, at best is foggy. It is a tough occupation in good times and an even tougher profession in the bad times. And yet, where would we be without the guys who dig the dirt and put the seeds in the ground.