STILLWATER, Okla. — Oklahoma wheat producers are finally making great strides in their harvesting season following a week-long delay stemming from heavy rains across the state.
According to recent wheat harvest reports from the Oklahoma Wheat Commission, a large majority of the crops from Clinton, Weatherford and Carnegie, down south to Pocasset and Chickasha received major hail damage and heavy rains and were still fighting mud as of last week. This, along with severe drought during the growing season in areas west of Interstate-35, will impact overall statewide numbers. Recent reports also said elevators are reporting more sprout due to excessive moisture in the southwest, south central and central regions. These three regions are nearing the harvest finish line.
OSU Test Plots and Variety Trials
“We didn’t make much progress the week following the rains, but fortunately, we were able to get back at it,” said Amanda Silva, Oklahoma State University Extension specialist for small grains. “Until early last week, it was stop and go. We started, then we had to stop because we got some rain. We tried to cut early the week following the rain, and it was too wet.”
With no rain and hot temperatures this past week, OSU crews were able to harvest test plots in the northwest, north central and south central regions. As of Monday, most OSU plots were harvested, with crews finishing up in the Panhandle. One OSU location in Altus was lost altogether because of the drought.
Silva said overall, yields vary for a number of reasons, including drought, hail damage, root/crown rot fungal diseases and brown wheat mite infestations. Any amount of time a crop spends in the field beyond maturity increases its risks of shattering, sprouting and low test weights. Although sprout damage has been reported, and test weights may have dropped with the latest rains, conditions do not appear to be dire, according to Silva. Protein is favorable in most places, too.
Gary Strickland, Jackson County director and southwest regional agronomist for OSU Extension, said the crop in southwest Oklahoma is no less than what wheat experts and producers expected, with acre abandonment at a little over 50% due to long-term drought conditions.
“The east side of the southwest area is better off than when you head farther west,” Strickland said. “They got enough rain that some producers have gotten up to 40 to 50 bushels per acre, but as you go west, the drier it gets.”
Yields for the southwest region average anywhere from 5 to 25 bushels per acre.
“The biggest yield I’ve seen in the Jackson County region is 27 bushels per acre,” Strickland said.
Despite this, test weights are coming in around 57 to 60 pounds per bushel.
A large portion of northwest crops were harvested last week with average yields of 20 to 35 bushels per acre, with some crops reaching as high as 80 bushels per acre, according to Josh Bushong, northwest area Extension specialist in agronomy. Bushong said test weights and protein for the region are right where they need to be.
“Heavily grazed wheat and wheat following a summer crop last year have been the fields yielding the least,” Bushong said. “Some fields, even while being stunted in height with a thin stand, have yields better than expected. I believe the main difference in the variability from field to field is largely due to variety genetics and timely spring rains.”
Bushong said he foresees some issues with test weight as harvest continues to move west.
“I think we’re going to see some shriveled grain, so test weight will fall off a little bit,” he said, adding that there have also been isolated issues with hail damage, and crown root rot damage is causing premature deaths in other crops. Some fields will be less than average production from drought damage.
“The worst fields for sprout damage appear to be earlier maturing varieties, so if a field is planned to be harvested for seed wheat, producers should be extra cautious,” Bushong said.
Bushong said producers who established their crops early ran into more disease issues, while those who planted later faced the negative effects of a drought. Several fields with short and thin wheat stands are starting to show issues with weed pressure, such as crabgrass, horseweed and pigweed. Bushong said producers have been considering harvest aids, such as 2,4-D, dicamba, glyphosate, metsulfuron and carfentrazone.
“Farmers, applicators and harvest crews should keep in mind most of these products have at least a seven-day pre-harvest interval,” he said. “The biggest concerns farmers have right now is every rain we get on a fully mature crop, the lower the test weights are going to be.”
Bushong said farmers need to harvest their wheat as soon as possible to quickly establish their summer crops, such as grain sorghum, soybeans and sesame, so they have a chance to finish out before the killing freeze this fall.
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