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Wheat crop looks golden despite ongoing drought

One farm crop in Ogle County has thrived despite this summer’s drought.

While fields of corn curl and turn brown due to the dwindling rainfall over the last two months, wheat has turned to golden maturity across the county.

“If there’s a bright spot this year, it’s the wheat,” said Dave Nelson, insurance specialist with 1st Farm Credit Services, Oregon. “The yield and other indicators have been above average.”

The reason is, Nelson said, that the rains came when the wheat needed it most — early this season.

Wheat is planted in the fall and grows in the spring.

“It needs moisture early. With the early spring it got that,” he said. “Wheat is a dry land crop and can handle the drought.”

Chuck Winterton, who farms just west of Byron, said the rains at the end of April were exactly what his 40-acre wheat field needed.

Winterton’s son Dave harvested the wheat last week and has already sold the crop.

Winterton said he hasn’t heard the final total on this year’s yield, but 75 bushels per acre would be considered a good yield.

“I’ve heard of people getting 100 this year,” he said.

For his crop, Winterton believes the drought may have made for smaller than normal kernels.

However, in some ways, the dry weather actually helped.

“On the other hand, there were no diseases,” Winterton said. “Wheat likes dry weather. It was really beautiful this year. There wasn’t a weed in it. It was too dry for the weeds.”

No rain meant the harvest could be completed in a short time, and no storms with strong winds meant the wheat was standing, also making the harvest easier and the yield better.

Winterton plants wheat every other year as a rotation crop on some of his poorer land with steep slopes, giving the ground a rest from corn.

However, most of the area’s fields are planted to corn and soybeans and those crops desperately need rain.

“The corn especially needs it now,” Nelson said. “Soybeans are a little better off.”

As the crops become more stressed, farmers are contacting his office more frequently to check on their crop insurance.

“I’ve been getting a lot more calls in the last few days,” Nelson said.

Although different types of crop insurance are available, the most widely used type is revenue protection, he said.

In this type of coverage a farmer can choose to cover between 65 and 85 percent of his crop.

The farmer’s average yield over the last 10 years is used to determine the value of his loss, based on projected spring and fall corn prices.

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