During a normal growing season, farmers in Canadian County would shy away from using the word drought when referring to crops, especially at harvest time.
However, with more than 22 inches of rain having fallen in the county the past 60 days, drought-type conditions are just what farmers need in order to get the hard red winter wheat from the fields to the grain silos.
“You never wish for a drought but we need sunshine and windy, windy days for weeks,” said Nick Owen.
Owen farms 800 acres west of Calumet and the wet weather has made harvesting his wheat crop tough this season. It’s also delayed the completion of other projects.
“The grass needs to be cut and the alfalfa needs to be swathed and bailed. I don’t have any alfalfa this year but friends around me do. We need some dry weather. It can go back to raining but we need just a few weeks of drier weather,” said Owen.
Owen estimates he’s harvested about two-thirds of his wheat crop but it’s hard to get an exact figure due to the rain. He’s been forced to harvest different patches which may dry quicker than others.
“It’s hard to tell because there are parts of the fields we have had to leave undone to let them dry out. We have five acres here and 10 acres there that we don’t want to rut up all the ground. So we leave it alone and let the wind and the heat air it out for us,” said Owen.
Having to piecemeal the harvest, said Owen, has driven up his out-of-pocket costs for things like diesel fuel.
“You don’t get as much done because you are having to pull harder through the mud in the fields you can harvest. You have to cut it differently and go around the wet spots and that burns up a lot of fuel.
“I have no idea how much extra until I sit down and put it on paper but it’s been more diesel than in a normal year,” said Owen.
According to the Oklahoma Climatology Survey, the majority of the county has seen 26 inches or more of rain over the past 90 days and more than 31 inches for the first six months of 2019.
The county’s average total rainfall for all of 2018 was just over 31 inches.
The rains have driven down the test weight of the wheat that has been harvested, said Owen.
“It was tested early on and it looked pretty good. Sixty pounds is a bushel and if it tests over that than we get paid a premium price. If it falls under 60 you start losing grades of grain and you lose money because we get docked so many cents per bushel.
“The quality of the grain has suffered,” said Owen.
Owen added his wheat has been falling between 59 and 60 pounds per bushel.
“In the past we have had 62 to 63 pounds of wheat. That’s extra money I don’t get to put in my pocket. I’ve heard some farmers have been getting 62- to 63-pound weights and there have been some as low as 55.
“Once the grain gets ripe it won’t weight any more. If it rains the test weight will go down, and the test weights have been hurt due to rain,” said Owen.
Workers at Schroeder Grain Company in El Reno said the average test weight for grain being delivered there was around the 57-pound range.
Kyle Worthington, executive director of Oklahoma State University Extension Office for Canadian County, said the average test weight has been the high 57 to 62 range and the average bushel per acre between 30 to 50.
“It’s been all over the board,” said Worthington.
Worthington agreed drier weather is needed to get the wheat harvested before the heads begin to sprout.
If heads sprout before harvesting, the wheat is not good for storing to be milled into bread.
“If it all dries up I think we can have an average harvest, as long as the wheat doesn’t sprout at the head,” said Worthington.
Worthington said the county has approximately 198,000 acres of land designated for wheat, half of which remains uncut.
“It’s getting late and a lot of providers are still cutting their fields. It’s not in the 50 percent of acres cut yet. If we can get the wind to blow and we can get 10 to 12 days of dry weather, I think we can complete the harvest,” said Worthington.
Cash prices for the wheat crop this season have also dropped from that of a year ago. In June of 2018, the price per bushel was around $5.69 at the Banner Co-Op. However, according to figures from the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Banner was paying $4.60 per bushel on June 25.
“Last year we were done with the harvest at the first of June. This year the price is down almost a dollar per bushel,” said Owen.
Worthington said the drop in price is not due to the rain but global demand.
“That’s more global supply than the rain. Last year the Russians had a big crop with lots of exports. It’s a global society and when you have places with big crops and they go to export it, it can change the price,” said Worthington.