Area harvesting is well under way, as seen here in a field east of Altus.
AP, with local reports — The wheat harvest has begun in Oklahoma with farmers and officials optimistic about the 2012 crop after drought ravaged production in 2011.
“Combines are rolling all across southwest Oklahoma … as far north as I-40,” said Debbie Wedel, executive secretary for the Oklahoma Wheat Commission.
OSU Extension Educator Gary Strickland said that local yields have been above the average at about 30 bushels an acre. “With the exception of the south and western areas of the county where they didn’t get as much rain, producers are seeing yields in the mid 30s to upper 40s,” Strickland said. In the areas that didn’t receive as much rain, yeilds were in the high 10s to lower 20s.
Strickland added that test weights are off a little from the 60 lb. average, with local weights in the 56 to 59 category.
Wedel said the U.S. Department of Agriculture projects 154.8 million bushels in Oklahoma, about 30 million more than average. The number is more than double the 70.4 million harvested last year, which was the smallest crop since the state experienced similar drought conditions in the 1950s.
The U.S. Drought Monitor listed more than 90 percent of the state in extreme to exceptional drought before rains began to ease the conditions in October.
Only the Panhandle and small sections of western Oklahoma remained affected by drought conditions on Thursday, when the latest Drought Monitor was released.
“From Beaver County east, it looks pretty good,” said farmer Tom Stephens of Guymon, where the harvest has yet to start.
“There’s spots where people got a shower of rain where it’s (wheat) looking pretty good,” Stephens said.
Still, farmers have other weather issues to face.
“We had a big hail storm down around Grandfield about two weeks ago,” that severely damaged what appeared to be a bumper crop, Wedel said.
“About two miles wide to 15-20 miles long that was a total loss,” she said. “Fields around it are about 20 to 25 bushels per acre, when you get away from that they’re 45 to 50.”
The unpredictable weather has farmers busy in an effort to get the crop out of the field, said Gammill.
“Everybody’s in a rush to harvest it while we can.” Many harvesters can bee seen cutting fields late into the night.
Strickland added that locally, he estimates that the harvest is about 65 percent to 70 percent complete.