Oklahoma Drought Cuts Wheat Production Again

Oklahoma Drought Cuts Wheat Production Again

Wheat country is mired by long-term drought. While the latest Drought Monitor Thursday shows significant drought improvement over the last week, the damage to the wheat crop in Oklahoma is already done.

Dennis Schoenhals is president of the Oklahoma Wheat Growers and shares how the winter wheat looked in Oklahoma during this month’s winter wheat tour.

“We saw a lot of the same thing we saw in western Kansas, a lot of short wheat, a lot of freeze damage, a lot of drought damage, not much disease, it was just a lot of thin stands. The wheat was really short, the heads are small, and the yields are going to be small, too.” 

Dennis and his family farm near Enid, Oklahoma, north of Oklahoma City.

“We raise wheat and soybeans and hay. We also have a registered cattle operation, but this year we’re struggling like a lot of other people are, but we are a little more fortunate than they are out in the western panhandle. We have had some rain, we got a good stand early on, January we got a nice rain, faucet turned off and we didn’t get a rain for 85 days. In March, the whole month of March, it probably was five to 15 degrees above our average temperature. We had a lot of gusty winds, some days it would blow 25-30 with guests of 50 or more, and so it dried everything out, we lost approximately half of our yield potential in the month of March.” 

This is year two of exceptional drought, as classified by the Drought Monitor. He says the recent rains have been welcome.

“And that’s probably helped myself and my family, my neighbors, more than anything, seeing rain, because you know we not only needed it to fill the grain in the heads of the wheat that’s already been headed out, but we also needed it for the pastures in the field for the cattle, and we also needed it for our summer crops. We all have neighbors that are raising alfalfa hay and they have other livestock. We just didn’t have any pond water to water our livestock, they’re having to haul water to them every day. The more rain we get, the better off we’ll be there and I think that makes everybody happy when it rains and then the sun shines the next day.” 

Still, he expects a short wheat crop this year.

“Last year, Oklahoma raised a 70 million bushel crop, typical crop for Oklahoma is 100 million bushel-plus, this year, it’s going to be below 50 million bushel. So that’s half of a normal crop and that’s two crops that are below normal in two straight years. So, we’re hoping that the price gets better and stays good, and we hope that we continue to get rainfall for the fields. That hay ground that I’ve had destroyed from wheat, you know, we’re going to go back with soybeans and double crop it, and hopefully we’ll get a soybean crop to help pay the bills.”