It’s ironic that on a day where the temperature reached the century mark for the first time this year, Southwest Oklahoma farmers were talking about freezing temperatures that have taken a big bite out of the 2020 wheat harvest.
Farmers are trying to cut what wheat they have left but in recent weeks they’ve been dodging rain showers that have cut down on their yields even more.
Brian Fischer is the general manager of the Chattanooga branch of the Lawton Farmer’s Cooperative and he’s seen numbers that range across the spectrum.
“Right now, we’ve probably seen about 60 percent of the wheat in the Chattanooga area harvested,” Fischer said. “I’d say that the general yield is around 25 bushels per acre but there are widely different numbers depending on how bad the freeze was in your area.
“On my own place I’ve seen averages that range from 8 to 43 bushels per acre. Some of the better fields were farther south where the freeze wasn’t as bad.”
There is some good news, though.
“The good thing is the test weight is good, with most every load we’ve received testing over 60,” Fischer said. “Our manager down at the Grandfield branch says the yields are closer to the 35 to 38 range own there so that is good news.”
The other variable remains the price of wheat which was at $4.40 per bushel at most of the area elevators Friday and it’s remained in that general range for the past 10 days.
One issue that often creeps into the overall picture is the availability of combine crews to cut the wheat.
“Most of the custom guys have already moved farther north where they are committed, so when we get delayed down here, it makes it tougher for those guys who don’t have machines,” Fischer said. “That’s when you have to rely on local farmers to cut your wheat but they are going to want to get their own out first. But with the low yields in some places, it might be a thing were some farmers might just plow it under.”
Jerry Krasser, the manager of the Walters Farmer’s Cooperative, said that he’s noticed more farmers baling their wheat this year and he attributes that to the freeze damage.
“I think we’ve probably lost about 65 percent of the wheat,” Krasser said. “That freeze came at such a critical time and forced the hand of many farmers. We still haven’t seen a steady rush but that might be the reason; that freeze damage made it hardly worth cutting.”
Much of the data is still being tabulated but Krasser sees one trend already.
“We have that elevator at Ahpeatone and this year it’s received more wheat than here at the Walters elevator,” he said. “That hasn’t happened in the past, so it’s obvious the further you go west the less effect that freeze had on the wheat.”
Krasser said that Thursday’s rain sent the final few custom crews packing for the trip north.
“Those guys stuck around about as long as they could but that rain Thursday got the rest of them,” Krasser said. “It’s one of those things; they have customers they’ve cut for years and when that wheat is ready, they’ll head out and leave the local guys with machines to mop up.”
The area’s largest elevator, the Apache Farmer’s Cooperative, is just getting its first few loads as the spotty rain showers have slowed the flow into a trickle. Officials there were not available to speak about yields and test weights but farmers in the Apache area said that more wheat was cut for hay than in recent years and much of that was damaged by the late April freeze.