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Southern Montana barley farmers worry heavy storms could ruin crops

Malt barley crops
Posted at 11:34 AM, Jul 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-26 13:34:21-04

HUNTLEY — When thinking about storm damage to crops, you may picture flattened fields. But there's a less obvious side effect of summer storms that could damage certain crops: Too much rain.

“Barley's about ready right now, and some of it is, and more moisture, humidity, rain we get, it’ll start molding,” said Mike Krum, a malt barley and sugar beet farmer from Ballantine on Monday.

Krum was bringing some of his barley harvest to Molson Coors Beverage Company, previously known as MillerCoors, in Huntley. He says Sunday's storm wasn't the first they've encountered this summer.

“It’s going to be a rough year this year with the hail that we had on July 5. We’re anywhere from fields with zero damage to 90% damage. So we are kind of all over the board in the valley down here," Krum said.

A hail storm can cause the barley to fall off its head and land on the ground. This makes it impossible to harvest. Too much moisture can cause the crop to mold. It can still be harvested but not taken to Molson Coors. Instead, the crop is turned into feed and the farmer will not make as much profit.

Unlike recent years when farmers had to fight drought, this summer has been abnormally wet.

“Where we really get concerned is if we have a prolonged period of two or three days of high humidity and rainfall,” said Mike Killen, the barley agronomist at Molson Coors Beverage Company.

Killen does say this month has brought less concern.

“The good thing about these splash and dash showers is they happen and then like today, the suns out, it's going to get to 90 degrees and it dries off fast," said Killen.

Most barley is in the early stages of being harvested, if not already harvested.

"[I'm] looking forward to getting this crop in the bin so mother nature can stay away from it," Killen said.