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Recent rains allow some Oklahoma wheat farmers to start planting

Because of recent rains, David Harman, of El Reno, was able to start planting wheat this week. The U.S. Drought Monitor report released Thursday shows 99.71 percent of Oklahoma remains in severe to exceptional drought.
by Bryan Painter Published: October 5, 2012

“Keep in mind that a three- to six-inch deficit in the Panhandle is probably just about equal to a larger deficit in other areas of the state that normally receive more rainfall,” McManus said.

The Oklahoma Mesonet's soil moisture sensors show there has been some recovery in much of the state's topsoil, especially with this last rainfall event in central Oklahoma, he said.

However, in looking at the statistics down to the 10-inch depth, it really starts to dry out in northern Oklahoma, scattered areas in the Panhandle and in southern parts of the state.

“Go down to the two-foot depth, and the soils are mostly bone dry except for small parts of the state,” McManus said.

The U.S. Drought Monitor report released Thursday showed much of northern Oklahoma and portions of the Panhandle and southwest Oklahoma remains in the exceptional drought category.

Going forward

In Oklahoma, the word “varies” usually applies to weather conditions, planting conditions, farming and ranching operations and more.

For example, in agriculture today, it is not uncommon for producers to have an off-farm income. That is the case with the 50-year-old Harman.

After college in the mid-1980s, Harman returned to the family farm. That was his full-time job until 1992, when he went to work for the El Reno Fire Department because, he said, “I needed more income than what the farm would provide.”

Still, Harman plants several hundred acres of wheat and also grows a couple of other crops each year.

And when he talks about current conditions, his focus isn't just on his needs but those of other agriculture producers. Some in his area “dusted in” their wheat, which basically means a farmer plants it in dry ground and hopes for rain. Harman said what he's seen of that wheat is looking good, and he's happy for those farmers.

But he also knows that while he raises wheat primarily for grain production, others base their operation on a combination of wheat and cattle. If they can get the wheat pasture, it will provide forage, but many of those producers are still left with little to no water in ponds.

So when Harman talks of future needs, he broadens his comments.

“In the long term, we need to be hoping or praying for some good soaking rains to get that subsoil moisture built up and also get some pond water,” he said.

by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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