A recent report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture said 90,000 acres of wheat were harvested for grain this year, the lowest amout since 1927 when 25,000 acres were harvested.
2011 wasn’t much better, the report said.
According to the report, eight million bushels of grain were harvested in New Mexico in 2010 compared to two million each in 2011 and 2012.
Longino Bustillos, deputy director of the New Mexico Agriculture Statistic Service, said many New Mexico wheat producers lost their wheat crops and did not harvest for grain this year due to lack of moisture.
“I would expect these numbers to mimic the moisture that we get,” Bustillos said of the state’s harvesting results.
Curry County wheat farmer Wilburn Brooks and Roosevelt County wheat farmer Rick Ledbetter said they cut their wheat for silage instead of harvesting for grain because of the lack of mositure to make grain.
Brooks and Ledbetter said they have cut wheat down early the last two years to sell as cattle feed rather than letting it go to full harvest.
“The cumulation from last summer’s drought was just too much for it,” Ledbetter said of wheat crop. “I have what I feel like is a better crop than last year but it’s mainly because I’m irrigating.”
Brooks said the longer New Mexico receives below average rainfall, the deeper the soil becomes dry.
“We can’t produce what we used to because we can’t produce enough water for how deep the dry ground goes,” Brooks said. “The whole country is getting that way.”
Brooks and Ledbetter estimated their wheat crops produced 50 percent less than average.
Brooks said in previous years, his wheat crops produced 35 to 50 bushels per acre of grain each year.
Ledbetter said his other crops faired even worse than his wheat.
“I think if we don’t see a significantly improved moisture situation this winter than we aren’t going to fare any better (next year),” Ledbetter said for local wheat crops. “I don’t think it will be any worse, but it will be bad. We certainly haven’t had enough rainfall to make a crop next year yet. We’re so depleted, we’ve got no reserves to work from.”
Ledbetter said five to six inches of rain through winter would be beneficial to get next year’s spring crops going, but even more will be needed to sustain them appropriately.