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Harvest less productive than 2005
The bright spot is the winter wheat, which was able to get water this spring that sustained it, so it was not as impacted by the heat, wind and lack of moisture this summer," said John Hilton, deputy director of the Montana office of Agricultural Statistics Service.

The agency released 2006 harvest forecast numbers Friday.

Farmers are expected to harvest 81.9 million bushels of winter wheat, down from 94.5 million last year. The average yield is expected to be 42 bushels an acre, down from 45 in 2005.

Spring wheat, hit hard by the weather, is expected to tally 71.3 million bushels this year, down 13 percent from last year.

Yields are projected to be just 25 bushels an acre, compared to 32 last year.

Barley yields are expected to average 53 bushels an acre and the total crop will be 33.9 million bushels, according to the report. Last week producers said that 32 percent of the crop was in fair condition, 36 percent was good and 9 percent was excellent. Another 18 percent is in poor condition and 5 percent is reported in very poor shape.

Durum wheat, a spring crop, is expected to produce the smallest harvest since 1988, with 6.7 million bushels, compared to 16.38 million last year.

"Farmers planted less durum this year, 190,000 fewer acres than last year," Hilton said.

Hot and dry aren't fondly used terms in farm country, but they are creating good conditions for combines.

"You could go at it all night if you wanted to," said Bob Kropp late Tuesday night.

Winter wheat is coming in with bushels per acre in the high 50s into the 60s at his farm north of Benton Lake.

"It's going to be a different picture when we get into the spring wheat," he said.

The harvest is pretty much wrapped up near Fort Benton, said Chouteau County Extension Agent Judee Wargo.

"The barley looks like it got hurt by the heat, but not as badly as the spring wheat," she said.

Farmers in that area have a couple of weeks before they'll head to the fields again to seed the 2007 winter wheat crop.

"We need to get some moisture before anyone can start planting," Wargo said. "My husband had to bury my cat the other day and he could hardly get down in the dirt. He said the first six inches were like a brick."
MGR Archive 13.8.2006
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