Much of Texas wheat looks better than anyone expected a few months ago, said a Texas AgriLife Extension Service agronomist.
“It’s been a very interesting year,” said David Drake, San Angelo. “It started out dry everywhere. Farmers had to plant wheat with faith that it would actually come up.”
Last winter, climatologists were forecasting the winter and early spring would be drier and warmer than average because of a strong La Niña, Drake noted.
The year did turn out to be warmer. Lubbock, for example, recorded the second-warmest March on record.
But despite the forecasts, many areas received substantial rains. In some cases, such as North Central Texas, the spring was much wetter than average. The moisture, in combination with the above-average temperatures, resulted in excellent growing conditions for wheat, Drake said.
Not everyone benefited, he noted. Some farmers, expecting unfavorable weather, cut back on fertilization and other inputs, and may have even seeded at lower rates.
“It put us in a situation where farmers who did not cut back on inputs are going to be able to capitalize on those potential yields,” Drake said. “Those farmers who applied enough fertilizer, used a decent seeding rate and didn’t cut corners – they’re going to do alright. They’re going to get a bumper crop in some areas.”
In other areas, cutting back on inputs may have been the right plan. Drake said large parts of the Panhandle and Far West Texas are still moisture-deficit.
Overall, Drake said his best guess at this time was that total yield for the state was likely to be average, though it was far from being an average year weather-wise. He noted, however, that even on an average year it’s hard to predict statewide grain yield as wheat is a multi-use crop. This year, more farmers than usual may be baling wheat for hay to rebuild stocks.
Wheat planting was up in 2012 to 5.8 million acres with 4.4 million intended for grain harvest as of March 30, Drake said.
More information on the current Texas drought and wildfire alerts can be found on the AgriLife Extension Agricultural Drought Task Force website at http://agrilife.tamu.edu/drought/.