Oklahoma wheat farmers began harvesting what could be one of the worst crops in decades this week in southwest Oklahoma.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates this year’s wheat crop in Oklahoma would yield 62.7 million bushels, down 41 percent from last year. According to the USDA figures, about 3.3 million acres of wheat will be harvested in Oklahoma this year with an average yield of 19 bushels per acre.
If those predictions are correct, it will be the worst wheat crop in the state since 1957 when 43 million bushels were harvested, said Mike Schulte, executive director of the Oklahoma Wheat Commission.
“Producer morale is really low right now because we have been in this drought period for the past five years, and there are concerns that the potential exists for us to repeat this pattern next year,” Schulte said.
The harvest began Thursday near Frederick in Tillman County, but was on hold Friday because of storms. The rain came too late to help the area’s wheat fields, said Mike Cassidy, co-owner of the grain elevator company Cassidy Grain in Frederick.
The one field that Cassidy saw completed this week yielded a paltry nine bushels of wheat per acre, he said. A late freeze in April and continuing drought conditions have been particularly hard on the crop in the southwestern part of the state.
“Most of the acres here will either be grazed out or baled up for hay and insurance,” Cassidy said.
While there are usually about 20 to 30 custom cutting crews in Frederick this time of year for the harvest, Cassidy has only seen two crews this week because there’s no wheat to cut, he said.