By Everett Brazil, III
The Newkirk Herald Journal
NEWKIRK — The Oklahoma wheat harvest has recently wrapped up a positive season, with about 318,000 bushels brought in to Two Rivers Coop, according to General Manager Wayne Foster. Producers have finished spring and summer planting, with many fields seeing corn, soybeans or sorghum growing toward the sky. With the intense summer heat and lingering drought however many fields may not make it, and there are concerns about what harvest may look like this fall, if there is no rain in the near future.
What is causing the crop problems is excessive summer heat and drought conditions.
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor’s weekly report released Thursday, July 14, all of Kay County in in drought, although most was in the “abnormally dry” designation, the lowest classification in the report. The Drought Monitor is published each Thursday by the University of Nebraska.
In the past 30 days, the Newkirk Mesonet weather station reported only one-quarter of an inch of rain.
That has led to disastrous conditions for the summer crops.
“It’s dry. If the crops are not hurting right now, they will be in the next few weeks,” said Kay County OSU Extension Ag Educator Shannon Mallory. “Every day until the end of the month is forecasted to be over 100 degrees.”
Many crop varieties have been selectivity engineered to withstand the heat and dryness, but even then there is a limit to that toleration.
“Although our good technology and varieties are able to handle short-term drought, there is no variety that can handle this.”
Each of the crops has seen its own struggles due to the drought.
“Corn, especially over the past few weeks, has not had ideal conditions for pollination,” Mallory said. “You couple that with the forecasted heat wave and it doesn’t spell good things for the crop to come through.”
Sorghum, also known as milo, can withstand some drought conditions, although limitedly.
“It’s not looking too good. The corn’s already burning up,” Foster said. “Milo seems to be okay, but I don’t know how long it’ll last.”
Soybeans have grown increasingly popular in Kay County, and producers tend to plant either a full season for the plants, or as a double crop behind wheat harvest. The double crop soybeans may be having a harder time in the heat.
“The soybeans planted after wheat sprouted strong, but they are still young plants, so that does not spell good news for them either,” Mallory said.
The dry weather is affecting the soybean crop in other ways, as well, as they are going into survival mode amidst the stress
“Some of the early beans are starting to lose their leaves now, trying to survive, so the yield is not going to be there,” Forster said.
The crop isn’t all lost, however, as many producers are currently converting it to hay and silage to feed cattle in the winter months.
“A lot of the corn, some of the guys are trying to turn it into hay,” Foster said. “Those early beans, some of the beans are going to be put to the swather, trying to salvage it.”
The forecast during the next few weeks calls for more excessive heat, including temperatures in the triple digits, and with very limited rain chances, that could be a serious threat to harvest, and the season is only partway through.
“What’ll happen in the next few weeks is if we don’t get any moisture, there probably won’t be a fall harvest,” Foster said.