McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

May 9, 2014

Wheat crop: Forecast looks ‘pretty dismal’

Staff reports
Enid News and Eagle

— Oklahoma’s winter wheat crop is forecast to be just 62.7 million bushels — down 41 percent from last year, according to the May forecast from U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Last year’s wheat crop came in at 105.4 million bushels.

The yield statewide also is expected to be way down, coming in at only 19 bushels an acre, compared to 31 bushels an acre last year, according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

“That’s pretty dismal,” said Rick Nelson, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service ag educator for Garfield County. “Drought and freeze have taken their toll on this wheat crop. It’s not unexpected, but not what we want to see or hear.”

North central Oklahoma, which includes Garfield County, traditionally is the top wheat-producing region in the state, and is expected to be so again. NASS forecasts the region to produce 24.5 million bushels of wheat, down from 48.5 million bushels last year. Yield is expected to be better than the state average, at 22.5 bushels an acre, but considerably lower than last year’s yield of 37.7 bushels an acre.

Even if weather conditions change, Nelson said, wheat plants have reached the point in their maturation process there won’t be much of a positive impact on yields.

“It could get worse,” he said, if hot and dry conditions continue.

He said he expects crop insurance adjusters soon will be releasing a lot of acres, and producers will graze cattle on the wheat or cut it and bale it for hay.

The USDA forecast is a little lower than the forecast given by crop advisers at the recent Oklahoma Grain and Feed Association annual meeting. That prediction came in at 66.5 million bushels.

Oklahoma is not the only wheat-producing state to seen crop estimates fall.

Kansas, the nation’s top wheat state, is forecast to harvest 260.4 million bushels, down from 319.2 million bushels last year. Texas also is expected to see a drop to 55.1 million bushels from last year’s 65.2 million bushels.

Colorado is forecast to see a sizeable increase in wheat harvested. The forecast calls for 84.2 million bushels, up from 44.3 million bushels last year.

Nationwide, the winter wheat forecast is 1.4 billion bushels, down 9 percent from last year.

The continued drought also could impact summer crops, Nelson said, which will be planted soon. However, it’s too dry for farmers to till their fields, he said.