JACKSON COUNTY - From the looks and quality of the wheat coming in from nearby Texas fields, and from what local farmers are saying, this year's crop is primo, number one, the best ever.
“This is probably 2 1/2 crops in one year,” said Barney Trammell, manager of Eldorado Farmers Co-op Association Gin & Elevator in Eldorado, putting into perspective the bountiful harvest that appears to be in the offing as compared with recent years.
The Eldorado co-op, which takes in wheat within a 110-mile radius, has processed 50,000 to 60,000 bushels thus far, mainly from two Crowell, Texas, farmers Donald Werley and Tom Adams, Trammell said, adding that yields for the two have come in at some 60 bushels per acre, twice the average yield of Jackson County acreage.
And it's all No. 1 wheat, he said, weighing in at 60.5 pounds per bushel and going for a hefty $4.30 per bushel.
Locally, Trammell said, the harvest could begin in three to four days. And, he said, many long-time farmers are telling him that, “This is the best crop that they've ever seen.”
The outlook for the wheat crop last year at this time was already dimmed following a 160 day period from March to October in which a scant tenth of an inch of rain had fallen. A paltry 35 to 40 percent yield in the 2006 crop dealt Oklahoma wheat producers an estimated $280 million blow to the gut.
This year's projected wheat production in Oklahoma, according to a recent survey, is at 164 million bushels, well above the five-year average of 131 million bushels and substantially better than the 71 million bushels harvested in 2006.
Barring last minute obstacles, Trammell predicts a boom. “I think it will probably be the largest wheat crop that Southwest Oklahoma has ever seen,” he said.
The wheat crop in Jackson County for 2007 is still looking good. In most fields that I have checked filling kernels number somewhere from 26 to 38 per head. The normal head size ranges from 24 to 32 kernals. This year's crop is also well tillered, indicating an above normal amount of heads per square foot. If seed weight, or put another way, the seed fills well, then this year's Jackson County Crop should be on track for an above average year. Simply put, the crop still looks good at present and with recent rainfall we should have enough moisture to fill grain providing there was enough green leaf and leaf sheath material left to help with photosynthesis. Of course nobody can predict final yields, so the final statement on this year's yield will be at harvest time. But again, the crop looks good.
Some hurdles this year's crop has faced include both disease and insects. With our moisture conditions for this year, both powdery mildew and leaf rust made a strong appearance in this year's crop. We saw certain varieties do better than others in withstanding this disease cycle. In particular both Endurance and Overlay did well. While Jagger is susceptible to both of these diseases, it still looks very good given the infection it was subjected to Fannin, Deliver, Duster, and OK Bullet also seemed to do reasonably well this year in terms of disease resistance. Jagalene and Cutter both were affected somewhat harder, but Jagalene probably showed the most visible susceptibility to both of these diseases, especially leaf rust. However I should say that two years ago when we first saw leaf rust in Jagalene, it still yielded very well. So it will be interesting to see how it does this year in the variety trial. All of the varieties showed some Barley Yellow Dwarf symptoms late in the year. This disease must be and was vectored by aphids and showed up as small circular yellow spots in the field, generally characterized by somewhat shorter plants and yellowing with reddish purple flag leaves. While aphid numbers were low this year, evidently they were carrying the disease. However, in most fields (there were some exceptions) the impact from this disease will probably be minimal.
The last pest it seems that the wheat producers are dealing with is armyworms. This week I have checked numerous fields for armyworms. While some fields have had numbers high enough to justify spraying, most fields have not. Visibly, signs that are seen with armyworm feeding at this time of the year include awn (beard) feeding, small tiller head feeding and finally remaining green leaf area feeding. In most cases, once the wheat kernel has entered soft dough stage awn feeding is not going to affect yield or grain fill. The small tiller heads (or some call them succor heads) do not contribute to yield very much, if any. Therefore these two symptoms should not be over-reacted to. However, if armyworm numbers are high enough (4-5 per linear foot of row) and their growth stage is small to mid in-star size (2-3 in-star) there remains enough feeding time in the armyworm's life that clipping of the primary wheat heads becomes a concern. If wheat stems are still green and/or armyworm numbers are high enough, then spraying can certainly be justified. But if a producer chooses to spray, the pre-harvest interval of the chemical of choice should be looked at closely since we are so close to harvest.
All of this said, I still come back to one of my first statements, this year's crop looks good. It certainly is one of the best looking ones in recent years. Let's hope it finishes out that way.