Southwest wheat farmers who just a few weeks ago anticipated yields approaching 60 bushels per acre and prices higher than they had seen in years may settle for salvaging the crop for livestock feed—if they can cut it at all.
And those who cut for grain may face deep discounts for lower quality.
“We’ve seen a lot of wheat down and a lot of heads sprouting,” says Texas A&M Extension agronomist Travis Miller. “A lot of farmers may sell feed wheat, if they can harvest it.”
Miler says Texas and other Southwestern states are getting rains that “were back-ordered for several years. We had a great wheat crop coming on with an estimated production of 138 million bushels for Texas. We’ll make less than that but it’s too early to estimate how much less.”
He says harvest in Central and South Texas beat much of the late May and June rainfall but says about 25 percent of the crop remains to be cut in some parts of the Hill Country (central Texas).
“Parts of the Plains have similar conditions to Northeast Texas,” he says. “Farmers are having difficulty getting wheat out of the fields.”
He says some farmers who have already cut wheat report discounts of as much as $1.50 per bushel.
“Conditions are spotty. Some farmers worked around showers and got combines into the fields.”
He says all farmers can do is wait for dry conditions. “And even if rain stops and soils dry out, as long as conditions remain humid, wheat will not thresh. Farmers may have to wait until afternoon to begin cutting and then quit about sundown.”
Wheat is not the only crop affected by heavy spring and summer rains. Miller says grain sorghum and corn stands show erratic growth. “Corn in low areas is stunted and waterlogged,” he says. “In blackland soils, terrace channels and low spots hold water. We may see some 180 bushel corn and some 80 bushel yields.”
He says growers planted a lot of grain sorghum but staggered planting dates, also caused by wet conditions, result in widely varying maturity. “We may see a lot of midge problems,” he says.
“Cotton is also suffering. Lack of sunshine and lack of heat units has delayed plant growth. We are as much as 25 percent behind on heat unit accumulation. That can affect yield.”
Miller says cotton can compensate with better weather but conditions need to transition soon. He says an even worse scenario would be for rain to continue until early July and then cease in conjunction with extreme heat.
“Cotton would have narrow root systems and a heavy fruit load and would just cook. We need moderate weather.”
Annual rainfall accumulation in College Station, through May, is 5 inches above normal.
“Accumulations vary across the state,” Miller says.
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