Temperatures, rain deficit taking toll

Producers, farmers feeling the heat

Cows at the Jet G Ranch have a respite from the heat as they graze early Tuesday morning. The National Weather Service had in effect an Excessive Heat Warning that day, with temperatures potentially topping 110 degrees. (Photo by Traci Chapman)

By Michael Pineda
Staff Writer

As temperatures land above the century mark on a daily basis,  the threat of drought is quickly becoming a concern.

Fact is, the impacts brought about by a deficit in rainfall and scorching temperatures are already being felt. Although time will tell whether this year ranks among the hottest in state history, there are some parallels with previous warm summers taking place. 

Canadian County OSU Extension Office Director Kyle Worthington pointed out there is plant stress taking place with animals, crops, ornamentals and in gardening.

“With livestock, there is a lot of heat stress,” Worthington said. “Our summer crop yield potentials are significantly reduced when we have these kind of temperatures, this kind of heat stress and a lack of rainfall. And that is what we are seeing this time. 

“Soybeans are not looking real good. The yield potential is looking real minimal, if they even fill and make good beans and fill pods,” he said.

Worthington said unless the cotton crop is irrigated, it is also looking like it could be delayed because the plants are small. The yield potential also appears to be significantly reduced.  

In terms of grain sorghum and corn that was planted, there is testing taking place for nitrates. Swathing has begun on some of the crop along with baling and chopping for silage. The grass hay, native and improved grasses yield is half of what it normally is. The result is hay will be at a premium in the coming months. 

“It’s all bringing a premium because we are seeing an entire region, not just here, but clear into western Oklahoma and Texas,” Worthington said. “Hay is going to be a premium this fall into winter so we are seeing some people culling into their cow herds.”

With less forage for grazing, Worthington said some producers have already been forced to feed their stock hay outside Canadian County. Spring calves are also being weaned earlier as basic practices are implemented to maintain and survive the drought.

Within the county, wheat remains the No. 1 cash crop. Due to an excessively dry period from October to May, the yield is lower this year than last year, which recorded some record yields. In addition to wheat, there are 5,000 to 6,000 acres of cotton each year, with a few thousand acres of corn, most of which is irrigated. Worthingon also estimated 5,000 to 7,000 acres of grain sorghum. 

Most of that acreage entered the summer already lacking water. Canadian County is listed as abnormally dry by the National Integrated Drought Information System. As far as the state is concerned, 62.8% is listed in moderate drought and 22.4% is severe drought. 

Conditions listed in an abnormally dry area include:

* Crops are stressed, winter wheat germination is delayed

* Stock pond levels decline


“We went through a dry winter, a dry spring,” Worthington said. “We did catch some rain in parts of the county in early to mid-May. But that was pretty isolated and the entire county didn’t receive those rains. We are pretty dry coming into mid-summer. Hopefully by fall, we will catch some of those September rains like we traditionally do, catch some run-off to fill some ponds and get a little regrowth in our pastures before the first frost.”

There appears to be little rain on the horizon, as forecasts call for temperatures over the next 10 to 12 days in triple digits. Worthington said that would put the county close to 30 days in triple digit temperatures this year, something that has not happened since 2018. 

Worthington said if temperatures keep at this pace, farmers may have to abandon some soybean, cotton and grain sorghum crops.

“If it continues, it will not be able to go to term to make a crop,” Worthington said. “If that happens, an awful lot of those acres have crop insurance. They may go ahead and till it out, plow it under and think about going back to wheat this fall if we get an adequate rainfall. If not, it’s hard to determine looking forward when a rainfall will be.”

As fall approaches, there could be relief in the form of hurricanes. Worthington said historically, hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico provide moisture late in the summer.

“Sometime in late August to September we start catching some more of those rains,” he said. “It kind of prepares to put in our next wheat crop. Sometimes we get a rain early enough we will kind of get some green up in our pastures.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations is predicting an above-average hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean. NOAA forecasts 14 to 21 named storms with up to 10 becoming hurricanes. 

Meanwhile, producers and farmers can only see a heat wave with no immediate relief.

“Right now, it’s all pretty heat stressed and not a lot of lot of production of a whole lot of growth in any of our pastures for our cattle producers right now,” Worthington said. “They are just trying to maintain their cow herd, their body condition. We will see what brings in the next couple of weeks. Maybe we’ll be blessed to catch a rain or two.”