Farmers predicting good wheat harvest

By Argen Duncan: PNT senior writer

Area wheat farmers are expecting an above-average harvest this year, if they haven’t seen it already.

Rick Ledbetter, who farms near Portales, said he and his neighbors have finished harvesting wheat to use the plant for silage and hay. Farmers growing wheat for grain expect to harvest in June.

“The wheat has been a very good harvest,” Ledbetter said. “You know, the winter moisture really helped the wheat crop.”

Although Ledbetter irrigates his crops, he said the precipitation makes it easier.

Not only did the winter snow help the crop, said Dave Sanders, who farms south of Elida, but rain also came in April when the wheat was hurting for water.

“That was a lifesaver,” he said.

Sanders grows most of his wheat dryland for grain.

Frank Blackburn, who farms northwest of Clovis, grows both irrigated and dryland wheat for grain. He plans to harvest the dryland wheat in early June and the irrigated wheat in mid-June.

“They look better than average,” he said of the crops.

Ledbetter said he harvested about 8 tons of silage wheat per acre and 2 1/2 tons of wheat hay per acre. He heard of silage yields up to 12 tons an acre and expected others would have gotten higher yields on hay as well.

The silage wheat in the area goes to dairies, and the wheat hay feeds horses and dairy cattle, Ledbetter said.

Sanders estimated that he would harvest an above-average 15-20 bushels of grain an acre from his dryland wheat, although he said the price he could get for it was looking weak. For his irrigated wheat hay crop, he harvested about 1 1/2 tons an acre, which he said was good.

Blackburn is hoping for rain this week because some of his wheat is suffering for moisture. However, he said the crop would still be OK even if the precipitation didn’t come.

Blackburn said he believed 2007 was the last year wheat crops were above average, and Sanders said a good wheat harvest comes about once in five years. Ledbetter said irrigated wheat produces more consistent harvests, but it’s more expensive to grow.