From The Greeley Tribune (Kristen Schmidt):
Above average spring moisture normally would have been a good sign for Weld County wheat farmers, but the moisture proved to be too little, too late. With a late harvest now rolling around, local farmers find themselves with lack luster crops and the threat of subpar yields. Minimal production is expected for the entire state.
According to the most recent U.S. Department of Agriculture report, Colorado winter wheat production in 2013 is projected at only 51 million bushels, down 31 percent from the 73.8 million bushels produced last year, and down 29 percent from the 10-year average crop of about 72 million bushels. The estimate for the 2013 Colorado winter wheat crop is based upon only 1.5 million acres being harvested, which is the lowest harvested acres since 1965, with an average yield of 34 bushels per acre.
Late harvests are also being seen statewide. The USDA’s report estimated Colorado as 7 percent harvested, compared with 81 percent at this time last year, when harvest was dramatically earlier than normal. The five-year average for harvest at the beginning of July is around 25 percent complete.
According to Bruce Bosley, Colorado State University Extension crop system specialist, soil conditions and weather are to blame for winter wheat’s poor outlook. He explained that when wheat was drilled last fall, the soil was too dry. Dry soil combined with winter’s bitter cold and lack of moisture stunted the crops growth and development.
Curt Wirth, a New Raymer-area farmer, agrees that dry conditions combined with excessive cold disturbed root-system development and are the key contributors to this season’s delayed harvest. Wirth is expecting his fields to yield only two-thirds of the crop they produced last year.
Roggen-area farmer Vern Cooksey plans to start harvest this weekend and is only expecting 30-40 bushels per acre. Cooksey attributes lower yields in part to the hot dry spell that plagued the month of June.
Southeastern Colorado wheat farmers even more so find themselves struggling to stay afloat.
The USDA’s most recent report stated that “farmers in the southeastern growing areas of the state have already abandoned a large portion of the acreage seeded last fall due to continuing drought and spring freezes.”
Colorado Wheat Executive Director Darrell Hanavan expressed his concern for winter wheat in southeastern Colorado and attributes many of the acres included in the state’s 32 percent abandonment rate to acres lost south of Interstate 70.
Even in the face of a projected record low in acres harvested since 1965, Bosley noted that, in general, years with smaller yields tend to have higher protein content.
While it may not be much, producers are eager to take hold of whatever silver lining they can find in the face of this year’s tough growing season.