By Leslie Radford: Freedom Newspapers
The end of the wheat harvest is still two weeks away and one area elavator is already overflowing.
Jimmy Schell, manager of the Friona Wheat Grower’s Grady station, said in an average year yields from the mostly dryland fields in northern Curry County average about 20 bushels per acre. But this year, the yields are double.
So far, the elevator has processed more than 60 million pounds of wheat grain. Schell said they have sent 650 trucks to its Friona elevator for storage since the first of June, the beginning of harvest.
“We have one large bin at this satellite station,” he said. “It’s full now. We have 7 million pounds of wheat sitting on the ground that we’re picking up (to be shipped) right now.”
Schell said the last year eastern New Mexico saw an excess of wheat production was in 1999 when his elevator processed around 60 million pounds of wheat.
He said the market is bringing in just over $3 per bushel, a fair price for the crop.
The strong yields aren’t limited to Curry County.
Randy McCasland, vice-president of Garvey processing in Roosevelt County, said Roosevelt County wheat growers usually produce 12 bushels per acre but are seeing numbers in the 30s.
“Farmers are pretty happy with their production,” McCasland said. “Bushels per acre are up and that’s a good thing.”
Schell said production was up this year because of the moisture the area has received over the last year. Records show this winter was one of the wettest on record and dryland wheat in particular reaped the benefits.
Rust, a plant fungus, was looking to be a problem back in May, according to Mark Marsalis, an agronomist with the New Mexico State University extension service. Schell said rust mostly affected the irrigated wheat crops, but the northern part of the county plants mostly dryland.
“We haven’t seen it affect too many crops,” Schell said.
Curry County Extension Agent Stan Jones said there are approximately 200,000 acres of wheat in Curry County.
According to National Agriculture Statistic Services, New Mexico had 77 percent of their wheat harvested by Monday, a 52 percent increase from the previous week. Nationally, less than half of the wheat crop has been harvested.
Pat Woods, president of Curry County Farm and Livestock Bureau and an area wheat farmer, said harvest will be done soon.
“It has been a very good year,” he said. “We’ve have been blessed. This is our best grain yield yet.”
Curry County ranks No. 1 in the state for wheat production, according to NASS census records.