Southwest Oklahoma Wheat Hit Hard by Late Freeze

April 20, 2009

Southwest Oklahoma’s wheat crop, already hurt by a prolonged drought, suffered significant damage during freezing weather earlier this month, agricultural experts say.

“The farther south you went, the worse it got,” said Tim Bartram, executive director of Oklahoma Wheat Growers Association. “The freeze was probably the final nail in the coffin.”

Insurance adjusters have been assessing the situation, and some of the crop will be written off and not harvested, said Mike Schulte, executive director of Oklahoma Wheat Commission.

The freeze occurred April 6 and April 7.

“It looks like it’s going to be a trying time for our industry,” he said.

Around Enid, the situation is less clear because the crop was not as far along in development.

“We don’t fully know yet,” Bartram said. “We weren’t setting up for a bumper crop anyway.”

Now, is figuring at best northwest Oklahoma will see an average crop.

Jeff Bedwell, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service agriculture educator in Garfield County, said the amount of damage sustained in the Enid area varies from field to field.

In some cases there is less damage in the thicker the stands of wheat.

“We still have a lot of time for this to evolve,” he said. “There’s a lot of what-ifs yet.”

Cooler, wetter conditions would help the crop, while hotter and drier weather could stress the plants, worsening the problems caused by the freeze.

Last year, conditions were good and the harvest reflected it, with 166.5 million bushels being collected, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

That was nearly double the 98 million bushels harvested in 2007 and more than double the 81.6 million bushels harvested in 2006.

In 2007, the crop was shaping up to be a good one before an April freeze caused some damage. Then, many farmers weren’t able to get combines in their fields because of heavy rain at harvest and a lot of the crop was left in the fields. In 2006, the crop was devastated by drought.

Information from: Enid News & Eagle,

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