Drought continues to take its toll on wheat crop

By Julie Tomascik

Winter wheat conditions are not improving for much of the state, according to the latest crop report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The report, released Feb. 28, shows winter wheat conditions in most areas of Texas are rated very poor to poor.

“In Southern and Southeastern Childress County, probably 98-99% of our wheat crop is nonexistent,” Shane Harris, a rancher and wheat farmer, told the Texas Farm Bureau Radio Network.

Farmers and ranchers across the state are facing similar drought conditions, with the U.S. Drought Monitor showing over 75% of the state suffering some level of drought.

“Lingering drought conditions are having an effect on crops, pastures and stock tanks. Some areas haven’t seen much measurable rainfall at all this year, ” Brant Wilbourn, TFB associate director of Commodity and Regulatory Activities, said. “This will have an impact on wheat growers’ yields and could lead to less seed available next fall.”

The Texas Crop Progress and Condition Report noted 54% of the wheat crop is rated very poor, 21% is rated poor, 17% is rated fair and 8% is rated good.

In Central Texas, earlier-planted wheat fields are expected to begin heading out soon, while other fields are reaching flag leaf stage. The wheat crop in the southern parts of the state is facing a lack of moisture.

Wheat fields in the Coastal Bend are holding up, but rain is needed soon to help the crop. North Texas wheat fields are rated mostly fair to good, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension district reporter.

In Far West Texas, wheat fields are nearly non-existent except for the irrigated fields that have not failed. However, the irrigated wheat is still in poor condition because irrigation was limited.

Wilbourn noted a wind storm also destroyed wheat fields in the Texas Panhandle in mid-December.

“It’s been a tough growing season for this wheat crop,” Wilbourn said. “Texas farmers and ranchers could use a good, soaking rain, especially as planting gets underway.”

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