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Warm, dry weather affecting Oklahoma's wheat harvest

Sean MacEntee / Flickr

Excessively warm temperatures and dry weather are already impacting this year’s wheat harvest in Oklahoma.

Over 94% of the state is experiencing some level of drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Although wheat harvest usually begins in June, the Oklahoma Mesonet’s agricultural coordinator Wes Lee said the drought and record-breaking warm temperatures in December caused producers to lose income potential on the cattle grazing aspect of dual-purpose wheat.

This is wheat commonly grown in the state that is partially grazed on by cattle before being harvested for grain.

“The cattle grazing component of that [crop] has been pretty much a bust this year because we just have not been able to grow that fall forage, or winter early winter forage,” Lee said. “So our cattle gains have been really light this year based on that, so the producers are not going to experience much profit from cattle on wheat.”

Lee said some producers sold cattle back into the market because they were waiting on rainfall before allowing the cattle to graze on the crop.

U.S. Drought Monitor

Because wheat is a cool-season crop, it does not require as much rainfall as a crop like corn, which is grown in the heat of summer. Wheat can usually get by with less rain than normal, but this season has been excessive. However, Lee said it’s still possible to have a good crop this year, if the state can experience some rainfall.

The state is experiencing the La Niña weather pattern, which often results in warm and dry weather conditions.

“We’re getting exactly what the books would say we should experience in western Oklahoma during a La Niña- type year,” Lee said. “Most of the scientists believe that that pattern is going to weaken and go to a neutral pattern by the end of March. So, by April, we hope we’re in a neutral or normal rainfall pattern starting in the spring.”

He said the state has been through situations like this before and will most likely experience it again. However, he also said the state needs rain between now and April to make a difference in the wheat crop.

Anna Pope is a reporter covering agriculture and rural issues at KOSU as a corps member with Report for America.
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