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(Staff Photo by BONNIE VCULEK)

Oklahoma is expected to harvest less winter wheat this year than last, according to the first U.S. Department of Agriculture estimate released Friday.

USDA forecasts Oklahoma’s wheat harvest to total 114 million bushels, down from 154.8 million bushels last year. The prolonged drought and several late freezes are to blame for the decrease in production, according to experts.

Harvested acres and yields also are expected to be down this year.

USDA predicts 3.8 million acres of wheat to be harvested in Oklahoma, down from 4.3 million last year. Yield is expected to be 30 bushels an acre, down from 36 bushels an acre last year.

Roger Don Gribble, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service northwest area agronomist, said freeze damage is apparent throughout the area.

Bent or broken nodes and cracked stems are seen in fields across northwest Oklahoma, he said. The crop is in the heading phase and there are signs that portions of some heads were damaged by the freeze and will not be reproductive.

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.

USDA’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, Gribble said.

Kansas, the nation’s biggest wheat producer, is forecast to harvest 299.7 million bushels, down 22 percent from last year’s 382.2 million bushels. It’s also below the forecast of 313 million bushels estimated by participants in the Kansas wheat quality tour earlier this month.

Far western Kansas is considered a disaster area, and farmers told tour participants earlier this month that crop insurance agents already have begun writing off acres there. Wheat tour participants examined 570 fields. In south-central Kansas, which got late-winter snowstorms and heavy spring rains, the wheat looks good and production there is expected to offset the losses elsewhere in the state.

Nationwide, USDA expects the winter wheat crop to be down to 1.49 billion bushels, a drop of 10 percent from last year.

The Associated Press contributed to this story

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