The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

November 22, 2012

Fields dry as winter nears

By Kevin Hassler, Associate Editor
Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Drought conditions continuing to plague northwest Oklahoma are affecting the area’s wheat crop.

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor map, released Wednesday, shows northwest and north central Oklahoma in exceptional drought, the worst category. That area includes Garfield, Grant, Alfalfa, Major, Woods and Woodward counties. Most of Blaine County and all of Kingfisher County are in extreme drought, the second-worst category.

The effects can be seen in fields throughout the area.

U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service shows 44 percent of the state’s wheat crop in poor or very poor condition. Another 43 percent is rated fair, with 12 percent good and just 1 percent excellent.

Roger Don Gribble, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service northwest area agronomist, said there are some good stands of wheat in the area.

In eastern Blaine and Kingfisher counties, there is wheat that “looks pretty good,” he said.

“It’s on par for average yields,” Gribble said.

However, in the area from Alva to Ponca City, the wheat is “really struggling,” Gribble said. “A lot of it hasn’t germinated.”

In the Enid area, the crop is looking below average, he said.

“The tiller counts are really low,” he said. “Most just have one tiller.”

Gribble said last year was a good wheat crop, with one wheat plant having seven to 10 tillers, compared to the average of four or five.

This year, plants are showing one to three tillers.

And, that means the potential for good yields are low, too.

“That’s a 30 percent hit on yield average,” he said. “We’ve missed our chance for fall tillers.”

The warm weather the area has experienced would be good for plant growth if it was accompanied by rain, Gribble said.

“Mother Nature sure cannot provide,” he said.

Gribble said farmers who have waited for rain and haven’t planted their wheat yet are running up against an insurance deadline. They have to have the crop planted by Nov. 30 for it to be insured.

“They probably will go ahead and dust it in,” Gribble said, even though rain chances are slim.

Another problem that could be developing, he said, is insect pressures. Winter grain mites and winged green bugs have been seen.

“It may be a problem as we stay dry,” Gribble said.

The area canola crop is looking pretty good, he said. It took a hit with a couple of freezes, but has recovered with the warm weather.