Wheat crop benefits from ice storm

October ice storm impacts producers

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A fourth generation wheat farmer, Jerry Lingo stands in his field in the Banner area. (Photo by Carol Mowdy Bond)

By Carol Mowdy Bond
Contributing Writer

The October ice storm is likely a good thing for Canadian County wheat producers. As of October 28, Mike Schulte, who is the director of the Oklahoma Wheat Commission, said, “The current moisture with this ice storm is going to help the wheat crop. But it’s so early to determine what’s going to happen in a growing season. Anything is fair game. I would suspect based on the situation now that things look more favorable than two weeks ago.”

A member of a large wheat producing family in Canadian County, Schulte said, “We had quite a bit of moisture in the first two weeks of September which allowed an opportunity to plant in Yukon, Okarche, and Kingfisher.”

Prior to the ice storm, much of Oklahoma was experiencing drought conditions. But due to the storm, KOCO 5 chief meteorologist Damon Lane said, “We made up for a month’s worth of rain in just a couple of days.”

Schulte said, “We are further behind in planting this year. In Oklahoma, we are showing that 66% of the wheat has emerged as of October 28. This means the green shoots have emerged. We’re behind from where we were last year. Last year we were at 74% emerged at this point. But in northwestern Oklahoma and parts of western and southwestern Oklahoma, producers opted to put seed in the ground, but due to the drought there wasn’t enough moisture. Now the ground is cooler and we’ve got moisture, but it will be slower.”
“Parts of far western and southwestern Oklahoma have not yet planted,” Schulte said.

“They’ll have an opportunity to plant but it could be another one or two weeks because it has to be dry when planted.”

Schulte said Oklahoma is a graze and grain state. “So during winter months farmers graze their cattle on wheat. We are not getting the early grazing unfortunately, even on wheat that has emerged, due to lack of moisture. So, cattle can’t graze. So farmers have to use hay, or feed their cattle by other means. So, we aren’t seeing producers buy as many cattle because the forage is not available.”

If the weather stays cold, Schulte said we lose the opportunity for grazing cattle right now. “This ice helps the wheat crop with moisture,” Schulte said. “But it would have been better with rain and 60 degrees. I think that on these percentages, that’s kind of where we are with the crop overall.”

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Schulte said, “Winter wheat is planted in Oklahoma in September and October. It grows in the fall during winter except when it goes dormant at the end of November through February. It’s harvested at the end of May or in early June.”

There are six classifications of wheat in the U.S., Schulte said. In this region, wheat farmers grow hard red winter wheat and that’s what has just been planted in Canadian County.

U.S. consumers have changed their purchasing behavior, Schulte said. He said consumers have gone back to purchasing in bulk in the last six to seven months, going back to trends of 25 to 30 years ago. “We’ve seen an increase in purchases of branded bread products made in bakeries of supermarkets across the U.S.,” Schulte said. “Two of the largest bread companies in the U.S. saw an increase in sales of 28 to 30% just on store-bought bread in the bread aisle, as of a survey completed in late August. This is traditionally not the time of year when consumers would make these brand purchases. Normally they do this during the holidays. But due to COVID, consumers are centering more toward cooking at home instead of going to restaurants.”

As of October 26, Schulte said China has committed to purchasing 15.5 million metric tons of U.S. wheat since June 1 for this year. “This is up 10% from last year’s purchase by China,” said Schulte.

Schulte said China buys a lot of wheat, corn and soy from the U.S. “So, we’re moving more hard red winter wheat to China, which is unusual. Hard red winter wheat is grown in places like Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas. Thus far this year we have seen sales up to this point include 921,000 tons of hard red winter wheat. And also purchases of 380,000 tons of hard red spring wheat, which is grown in places like the Dakotas and Montana. China committed to buy $32 billion worth of U.S. agricultural products within the 2020-2021 marketing year. We are benefitting from it here in the southern plains of the U.S. In China, they can’t grow enough wheat to feed their people due to their population. But they can purchase from the U.S., Russia, and Australia.

The bilateral trade agreement has created beneficial trade agreements with the U.S. and China over the last year. Previously China bought their wheat from elsewhere in the U.S. But based on the agreement, they are buying wheat from producers in the southern plains.

Farmers have seen great potential with movement of commodities with these trade agreements with China,” Schulte said.