GREAT FALLS — Winters in Montana are typically very cold and icy, but this season has been unexpectedly warm so far, and that could have an affect on Montana’s winter wheat.
Snow coverage across the state is minimal, with 56% of Montana experiencing poor snow coverage and 44% with very poor coverage.
“For right now, we’re going into it a little bit dry,” said Mitch Konen, president of the Montana Grain Growers Association. “There could be some flash droughting here and there around the state, but we are definitely seeing the drought monitor creeping into the state of Montana.”
Wheat is Montana’s leading crop. During the harshest winter months between November and February, wheat crops lay dormant, protected from the windy elements by a layer of snow.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, winter freeze and wind damage to winter wheat remains low, but continued high winds and minimal snow cover could deplete conditions.
But while weather conditions may seem uncertain now, meteorologists at the National Weather Service say it’s too early to tell exactly what will happen in the months ahead.
“Really it’s too early to tell what’s going to happen looking forward to the spring and summer,” said Bob Hoenisch, Meteorologist at the National Weather Service. “We’re about half-way through our snow accumulation season, so we’ve still got a lot of months ahead where we can make up some ground in terms of moisture.”
In their report released on Monday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture rated winter wheat conditions at 65%, declining from 74% in their previous report.