The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

April 6, 2013

A dry year for wheat

By Bridget Nash Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — “Wheat” and “Oklahoma” go hand-in-hand, but what happens during the years when “Oklahoma” and “drought” often are found in the same sentence?

“The stands of wheat in northwest Oklahoma are not at the level right now that would be consistent with average or above-average,” said Roger Gribble of Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension’s office in Garfield County. “That is the plants’ response to the drought.”

In addition to drought conditions, northwest Oklahoma also saw a hard freeze late in March that could impact the wheat crop.

“I’m pretty sure we’re going to see some injury,” said Gribble. “Most of it will probably be cosmetic damage to the leaves.”

Rick Nelson, extension educator for agriculture programs, is optimistic the freeze hit during the wheat’s first hollow stem growth stage and will have caused little damage.

While it will be good news if the freeze didn’t damage the wheat, the fact remains the drought’s impact can’t be reversed.

“We were close to 160 million bushels last year,” said Gribble. “This year I expect 100 million bushels or less. People will graze out some wheat. We call it abandonment. I don’t know what the abandonment number will be.”

The wheat crop also impacts the cattle industry in Oklahoma.

“We didn’t have near the number of stocker cattle that we normally have,” said Gribble.

Gribble said the effects of the drought on the wheat already have occurred, and there is no turning back now.

“We just didn’t have enough rain,” said Gribble.

The weather predictions are calling for a repeat, Gribble said, with a warmer, dryer spring and a hot summer.

There is still a chance this year’s wheat crop will come up to the average mark.

“We’re still in a drought, but my hope is for the average crop,” said Nelson. “With the recent moisture we received, I’m optimistic we’ll get to average.”

Nelson said the good news is the wheat has not succumbed to any of the other possible problems that can plague growth.

“We haven’t had any observable disease and very little insect issue,” said Nelson.