The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

May 11, 2013

Late freezes hurt wheat: One estimate puts crop at 85.5 million bushels

Kevin Hassler, Associate Editor
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Spring’s crazy weather has impacted Oklahoma’s wheat crop.

What the impact of the late freezes, combined with the prolonged drought, will be remains to be seen, but experts agree it will be significant.

One estimate, given at the recent Oklahoma Grain and Feed Association annual meeting, put wheat harvest at 85.5 million bushels, said Mike Schulte, executive director of Oklahoma Wheat Commission.

He’s worried, though, that the estimate may be too high, and he’s looking at past harvests as his guide.

In 2008, Oklahoma’s wheat harvest totaled 166.5 million bushels, Schulte said. In 2009, harvest dropped to 77 million bushels. In jumped to 120.9 million bushels in 2010, but fell in 2011 to 70.4 million bushels, he said.

Last year, farmers brought in 154.8 million bushels of grain.

Schulte said producers have reported “extreme freeze damage” in southwest and southern Oklahoma. In south central Oklahoma, around Hobart and Cordell, he said, there are areas of severe damage.

“Even in Kingfisher County, there are places that I saw 10-20 percent damage,” Schulte said.

In places, fields already stressed by the drought were nearly wiped out by the freeze, he said. The Panhandle could see a 10th of the normal production.

In southwest Oklahoma, many farmers are turning their wheat crop into hay and will not harvest.

In northwest Oklahoma, the freeze hurt, said Roger Don Gribble, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service northwest area agronomist.

“There continues to be signs that we were hit by the freeze,” he said.

He pointed to such things as bent or broken nodes and cracked ste-ms as signs the crop suffered damage. As the crop enters the heading phase, he said, there are signs in fields throughout the area that portions of some heads were damaged and will not be reproductive.

All of that will affect yields.

Damage was more widespread in areas north and west of Enid, Gribble said, compared to areas south and east. In the Enid area, there are some structural issues and some damage to heads.

“It just depends on where you are standing,” Gribble said.

U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service shows 18 percent of the state’s wheat crop in good condition in its latest report released Monday. Two percent is listed in excellent shape.

Another 35 percent is in fair condition, while 27 percent is listed as poor and 18 percent as very poor, according to NASS.

Harvest still is roughly a month away in the Enid area, he said.

The canola crop, too, suffered damage from the late freeze.

Damage to plant stems could affect the amount of moisture and nutrients that are distributed, he said.

“We’ll see how much seed set we will get from here on out,” Gribble said.