Despite ongoing drought conditions, Oklahoma wheat farmers nearly are finished planting their winter crop and are hopeful of being able to cash in on high prices at harvest time.
Oklahoma Wheat Commission Execu-tive Director Mike Schulte said Friday that 75 percent of the 2012 crop is estimated to have been planted, with 42 percent emerged. Last year at this time, about 59 percent had been planted and 29 percent had emerged.
“That’s because producers have had an opportunity to take advantage of some of the moisture that came through the state in recent weeks,” Schulte said.
In Altus, farmer Joe Kelly said he’s putting wheat in the ground now and plans to plant about 1,500 acres.
“We’re going as hard as we can go,” Kelly said. “We’re optimistic. We’re still deficient on moisture for sure, but the price looks good and we’ve got time to get more moisture.”
Kelly said farmers have until Nov. 20 to get their crop planted for crop insurance purposes.
Prices are running at $8.30 to $8.50 per bushel, with the break-even price for farmers being about $6 per bushel, Kelly said.
In northwest Oklahoma, farmers continue to struggle from a lack of rain.
That lack of moisture is hurting the wheat that’s already been planted, and keeping farmers who haven’t planted from being able to do so, said Roger Don Gribble, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service northwest area agronomist.
There’s little moisture in the ground for the crop that’s already planted to use for growth, he said, and no moisture for new seeds to germinate and develop.
According to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor report, most of northwest Oklahoma is listed in exceptional drought, the worst category.
Topsoil moisture conditions throughout the state are a mixed bag, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agri-cultural Statistics Service. Fifty-five percent of the state is showing topsoil moisture as short or very short. Another 43 percent is listed as adequate.
Subsoil moisture conditions are even worse. Eighty-five percent of the state has short or very short subsoil moisture. The remaining 15 percent is adequate.
Gribble said he expects farmers in the area to plant “slightly more” wheat than normal to try to take advantage of the high prices.
“It won’t be a huge increase,” he said.
One factor in the increase is that farmers who had planted a double crop of grain sorghum or soybeans in the spring with plans to harvest in November, lost most of that crop to a freeze Oct. 4, Gribble said. They plan to plant wheat now in hopes of getting a crop that will bring them some money later.
“It’s not sparked by cautious optimism,” he said, “it’s sparked by the need to get a crop to cover the soil.”
The latest U.S. Drought Monitor report shows 99 percent of Oklahoma in some form of drought. About 67 percent of the state is in extreme or exceptional drought, which are the two most severe categories, down from 80 percent a week ago.
“We are by no means out of these drought conditions,” Schulte said, “but we got rains at the right time.”
Schulte said there are concerns about stress on crops because the weather warmed up sooner than usual this year.
Wheat farmers are coming off a 2012 harvest of 154.8 million bushels, a bumper crop compared to the 70.4 million harvested in 2011, during a summer that also was drought-stricken and was the hottest on record in Oklahoma.
The state generally averages a harvest of about 120 million to 125 million bushels.