MWBC Crop Conditions: Barley, The Triple Threat

According to NASS: Cooler temperatures and scattered moisture were observed across the state of Montana last week, according to the Mountain Regional Field Office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service, USDA. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, approximately 88 percent of Montana is abnormally dry or in a current state of drought, with about 28 percent of the state in severe to exceptional drought. Reporters in Broadwater, Judith Basin, and Mineral counties reported some significant moisture events the past week, but overall soil moisture is still very low. Topsoil moisture conditions were 43 percent adequate to surplus, down significantly from the previous year at 93 percent. Subsoil moisture conditions were 43 percent adequate to surplus. Barley planted was estimated at 28 percent complete, ahead of the 5-year average of 24 percent. Planting of dry edible beans progressed slightly this week, with an estimated 5 percent of the crop planted, slightly behind the 5-year average of 6 percent. Durum wheat planting has progressed ahead of the previous year, with an estimated 8 percent of the crop planted. Oats planted is estimated at 9 percent complete, ahead of the previous year, but behind the 5-year average of 15 percent. Oilseed planting continues, with an estimated 10 percent of canola and 13 percent of flaxseed planted. Spring wheat planted was reported at 20 percent complete, falling behind the 5-year average of 22 percent. Sugarbeet planting is making progress, with an estimated 12 percent of the crop planted, behind the 5-year average of 20 percent. Winter wheat was reported with 77 percent of the crop breaking dormancy, behind the previous year at 82 percent. Winter wheat conditions were rated as 53 percent good to excellent compared to 63 percent this time last year. Reporters in Golden Valley and Teton counties stated spring grass is very slow to grow due to colder temperatures and lack of moisture. Grazing accessibility is down slightly from the previous week, with an estimated 80 percent of pastures open, compared to 87 percent the previous week. Calving and lambing continue to make progress, with 78 percent of cows calved and 67 percent of ewes lambed.

Fun Fact: In 2020 Montana produced roughly 12 billion pounds of winter and spring wheat. The U.S per capita consumption of wheat is around 131 pounds per year. Which means Montana alone can feed 91 million U.S citizens! Export avenues will always remain critical to our state.



Moisture conditions have slightly improved week over week, with spring rain and snow throughout the state the past week. Planting progress still advanced quickly, barley ahead of our 5-year average, spring wheat and durum slightly behind, yet 10-19% ahead of last year. Producers have continued to see risk aversion to getting barley in first.

Barley is described as a triple threat crop, food, feed, and malt, 3 different markets with specific agronomic/nutritional/quality targets. Breeding for 3 different markets is no easy feat, malt being the most established market tends to be the focus. MSU has taken on all 3 markets as possibilities for Montana producers, on top of those 3 markets there is 2 types of crops, winter, and spring. MSU is seeing significant improvements in their winter barley program. It takes around 10 years from a cross to be available publicly. Having foresight in future trends and technologies is at the front of our board members funding decisions. Their commitment to developing winter barley is just 1 of the exciting developments MWBC funds. How far away are we from developing barley varieties that hit every agronomic/nutritional/quality mark for 3 different markets? Not as far off as you would think! I suggest that first variety release be named “Triple Threat”.

Below is a current look at MSU winter barley this spring:


Field days are back on! Look at the schedule CLICK HERE

If you need help sourcing wheat and barley ingredients for your business, we would love to help. We will connect you with several options that provide numerous methods of delivery. All our wheat and barley suppliers can conduct negotiations virtually to fit your country or states regulations if needed, otherwise social distancing is not a problem out here =)

-Sam Anderson


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