By Scott Fitzgerald

Staff Writer

As harvest continues, wheat yields are reported to vary widely across northwest Oklahoma, while quality is high through the region.

A check with grain elevator operators this week also shows many acres were taken out of production because of drought conditions that have plagued the area for months. Also, some producers decided to let cattle graze out certain fields to take advantage of beef prices.

“You had to do everything right this year to get maximum yield,” said Troy Rigel, vice president of grain merchandising at W.B. Johnston Grain Co. in Enid.

“This has been one of the strangest harvest seasons,” said Tod Gragg, who works in shipping and receiving at the ADM elevator.

One area that has seen a good year is in northeastern and eastern Garfield County, especially around Garber.

“We’re having a pretty good harvest,” said Kurt Anderson, of Garber Co-op Elevator, which services Covington, Garber and Fairmont.

A winter snow that topped 12 inches or more in this area made a big difference, Anderson said.

Wheat yields vary, however, from 15 bushels an acre on some land to as much as 50 bushels an acre on land where no-till farming methods were used, Anderson said.

Around Covington, he said, some producers chose to let their cattle graze out because of high cattle prices.

One common thread producers shared this year is harvest began earlier than usual because of the dry conditions and early heat.

“It’s been extremely dry. We took our first load on May 24,” said manager Joe Royster, of Dacoma Farmers Cooperative Service.

Royster expected to finish receiving grain today.

“Our yields overall have been averaging from 20 to 25 bushels per acre. That’s extremely low. The quality has been excellent, with wheat testing from 61 to 62 to 63 pounds. There’s not a lot of weeds, and the protein level has been fair,” Royster said.

Around the Hennessey area, Paul Campbell, an elevator manager with Plains Partners, reported yields have been decent, climbing as high as 60 bushels per acre in some spots but generally running from 25 to 30 percent below average.

Many farmers in the area were able to grow a successful crop because rain fell at critical times, Campbell said.

Going farther west, yields are anywhere from 15 to 20 percent below average, but the quality is surprisingly good or “better than everyone thought,” said Dave Shaklee, general manager of Great Plains Co-op in Lahoma.

“We’re about 50 percent done in the fields right now. We started early this year on May 26,” Shaklee said.

Yields that usually run from 40 to 60 bushels per acre are averaging from nearly 30 to 50 bushels per acre, Shaklee said.

Test weights ranging from 60 to 63 pounds indicate high quality.

“From mid-October to April we went without any substantial moisture,” Shaklee said about producers west of Enid. “Still, the wheat always looked dark green.”

Shaklee said moisture levels in the soil must have been high to produce such a high grain quality this season.

The current dry spell is welcomed by producers in order to keep the weight at a superb quality. Rain now would affect the grain that has fully ripened.

“Moisture (in grain) is down to 11 or 10 percent. This eliminates storage problems. It can get lower than 8 or 9 percent, but that’s not good. It (wheat grain) would be more susceptible to cracking when you move it. If it gets up to 14 percent moisture, that’s too wet,” Shaklee said.

Great Plains is shipping some grain to processing mills, such as one located in Okeene, but for the most part, co-ops are not shipping grain unless it has been sold first, Shaklee said.

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