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Wet finish to 2011 is good news for Oklahoma wheat crop

October through December was much wetter than normal across Oklahoma, officials said. That's good news for the winter wheat crop and could help the state stave off drought in 2012.
BY MICHAEL KIMBALL mkimball@opubco.com Published: January 5, 2012
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A wet finish to 2011 could be a boon to Oklahoma's economy thanks to a rescued winter wheat crop.

Most of Oklahoma had more than double the normal amount of rainfall for October through December, said Gary McManus, associate state climatologist for the Oklahoma Climatological Survey.

That's still not a lot of rain because that period is normally dry, but it was enough to matter.

“In essence, it was a wheat crop saver,” McManus said. “And it's not just wheat (that benefited). It's filled up reservoirs in eastern Oklahoma and helped soil moisture.”

Farmers aren't out of the woods yet, because the wheat will need more rain as the winter goes on.

“But at least it's better than what they were looking at back in September,” McManus said. “In fact, it's not just better, but much better.”

The 2011 wheat crop suffered from a dry winter, contributing roughly $600 million to the state economy, said Mike Schulte, executive director of the Oklahoma Wheat Commission. By comparison, 2010 was a better-than-average crop and brought in more than $1 billion.

“Just going out and scouting wheat fields, we're seeing good growth take place,” he said. “No doubt we're going to need more moisture as we move into the spring, but things are looking promising.”

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