Oklahoma's wheat farmers are smiling.
Favorable weather conditions led the U.S. Department of Agriculture to predict Oklahoma will harvest more than double the amount of wheat as last year — 154.8 million bushels, up from 70.4 million bushels the year before, a 120 percent increase. The state's average is 110 million bushels.
The crop in 2011 suffered from a severe drought and blistering heat. Not so this year.
“It's a fun harvest for a change,” said wheat farmer Don Schieber, who took his first load of cut wheat to a grain elevator Thursday afternoon. Initially, he thought the quality of his wheat wouldn't be up to par. But test weights and moisture levels all measured great, he said.
Harvest began three weeks early this year in southwestern Oklahoma and will likely wrap up by June 20, said Mike Schulte, chief executive of the Oklahoma Wheat Commission.
Typically, the harvest is late May through the first of July. Warm, dry temperatures have caused the wheat to ripen extremely fast this year.
A chance of rain Friday night and through the weekend had some farmers rushing to unload at local grain elevators on Thursday in case the crop is damaged by hail or receives too much moisture.
“They're wanting to move as fast as they can to get it out because it has been a while since they've had a good wheat crop,” Schulte said.