Wheat farmers bracing for dry winter

By Alisa Boswell

Two months into the winter growing season, farmers in Curry and Roosevelt County are asking one question: Where’s the rain?

With 60 to 70-degree days and less than normal precipitation, the two counties are suffering a dry season.

Farmers said only wheat crops have suffered badly from this winter’s dry spell.

According to Rick Ledbetter, a cotton and alfalfa farmer in Roosevelt County, the situation with wheat crops is not yet serious. But Ledbetter said if local farmers do not see any kind of precipitation in the next several weeks, the situation could become dire.

“If we don’t get some moisture, we won’t be able to harvest the wheat,” Ledbetter said. “We’ll see some effects on our summer crops too if we don’t get some moisture.”

Ledbetter said he can visibly see the difference in his dry land crops versus irrigated, but the dry land wheat is still alive.

Kevin Breshears, another Roosevelt County farmer with wheat, alfalfa, cotton and corn crops, said winter kill is what farmers will be facing if their wheat crops do not get moisture soon.

“If we don’t get any moisture in the next 30 days, it’s gonna get serious,” Breshears said . “This is a classic La Nina year.”

Breshears said the Great Plains area is the largest hard, red winter wheat producer in the U.S.

“We really won’t know what damage we have until it (the wheat) starts breaking dormancy in the next 30 days,” Breshears said.

Frank Blackburn, a Curry County commissioner and a farmer of wheat, milo and cattle, said he has never seen the wheat fields so dry in his more than 60 years in Curry County.

“I haven’t given up yet,” Blackburn said. “There’s still plenty of time. We need moisture by at least April 1…”

Blackburn said his main concern is wind erosion, because wheat crops are not large enough to withstand harsh, dry winds.

Blackburn said the wheat crops are not dead but simply not growing. He said while he has high hopes rain will come, if it doesn’t farmers will be falling back on crop insurance.

All three farmers agreed without more rain by the spring season, there will be no hope for the survival of dry land wheat crops.