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wheat

Shekeyra Goodman sets a table in an event room Tuesday at the Embassy Suites Oklahoma City Downtown/Medical Center.
Brent Fuchs / The Journal Record

On Tuesday, the Oklahoma Hotel and Lodging Association held its annual forecasting luncheon at the Skirvin in downtown Oklahoma City. The group’s figures show hotel demand in the state dropped 3.5 percent, while the supply was up 2.9 percent.

One of the presenters, Jan Freitag, basically said this decline all has to do with the price of oil, and that the demand for hotel rooms used to grow by 8 percent annually.

A combine crew from South Dakota harvests wheat near Altus in southwest Oklahoma.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A recent survey of Oklahoma's wheat farmers shows they're doing whatever they can to save money due to low commodity prices.

The Farmer Speaks study shows nearly 75 percent of farmers surveyed say they're switching from name-brand herbicides to generics, and more than 30 percent said they won't buy new equipment anytime soon, The Journal Record’s Brian Brus reports:

Plant breeder, Stephen Baenziger, points to anthers - the male part of a wheat floret. Removing anthers by hand using tweezers is one way researchers make hybrid wheat in the greenhouse.
Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

Wheat is one of the world’s staple foods and a big crop on the Great Plains and in Oklahoma, but it has been left in the dust. A corn farmer can grow 44 percent more bushels per acre than 30 years ago, but only 16 percent more wheat. That’s led many farmers to make a switch.

“Wheat acres have been going down since 1981 or 1982 when they were up around 86 million acres,” said Steve Joehl, director of research with the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG). “I think last year we had a little over 56 million. It’s just a straight trend line down.”

A scene from 1967's "Son of Godzilla."
Toho / Sony Pictures

This year’s El Niño might be the strongest ever. The phenomenon — marked by unusually warm waters in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of South America — means more precipitation could be on the way for Oklahoma. The state’s wheat farmers are hopeful, but know too much rain at the wrong time can be ruinous.

Mike Rosen runs a grain elevator near Kingfisher. He says Oklahoma’s wheat farmers can’t seem to catch a break.

Workers harvesting wheat on a farm near Altus, Okla., in June 2015.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The decades-old embargo on trade with communist Cuba cuts U.S. goods off from what would be one of their nearest international destinations. That could be changing now that the two countries are restoring diplomatic relations.

The Newt Graham Lock and Dam near Inola, Okla.
Tyler / Flickr

Slow moving storms that dumped record amounts of rain on Oklahoma in April and May killed the five-year drought, but damaged wheat crops in western Oklahoma. This after one of the worst wheat harvests on record in 2014.

A combine crew from South Dakota harvests wheat near Altus in southwest Oklahoma.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

May 2015 was Oklahoma’s wettest month on record. The historic rainfall washed away an economically draining drought that haunted parts of the state for five years. For many wheat farmers in southwestern Oklahoma, however, the record rainfall is too much, too late.

To find a farmer in the wide, unbroken prairie of southwest Oklahoma, scan the horizon and look for clouds — of dust. In a field five miles south of Altus, Fred Schmedt peers through the haze and watches a gray-and-black combine pull alongside a tractor with a grain cart.

Schmedt grins as the bin fills.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma agriculture officials say ongoing drought during the start of spring followed by a late freeze and untimely late spring rains produced the worst wheat crop in nearly a half century.

Oklahoma Wheat Commission director Mike Schulte says the current projection is for about 51 million bushels of wheat in the state — the lowest total since 43 million bushels were harvested in 1957.

Schulte says the harvest is considered 97 percent complete as of Monday but says he knows of no farmers still trying to collect the crop.

Drought Hammers Winter Wheat Across The Plains

Jun 10, 2014
Farmer Jim Haarberg of Imperial, Nebraska compares the heads of wheat from two different stalks to demonstrate the stunting effects of drought.
Ariana Brocious / Harvest Public Media

Much of the Midwest and the Plains have been battling drought for years. And the current winter wheat crop looks like it will be one of the worst in recent memory, stressing farmers in the heart of the Wheat Belt – from Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska.

In Nebraska, a full quarter of the winter wheat crop is rated poor to very poor, and Nebraska farmers are doing comparatively well. More than 40 percent of the wheat acres in Colorado are poor or worse; nearly 60 percent in Kansas and Texas; and an incredible 80 percent in Oklahoma.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Four years of extreme drought has withered the agricultural economies of southern Great Plains states like Oklahoma, where farmers are bracing for one of worst wheat crops in state history.

And Oklahoma’s withered wheat harvest could have national consequences.

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