By Ryan Lengerich: CNJ staff writer
Heavy rains early this month have set wheat farmers up for a strong harvest this summer, though more rain would secure the possibility, a local agriculture agent said on Sunday.
Curry County ag agent Stan Jones said many area farmers were preparing to cut their losses early this year. Now the picture looks bright.
“If we don’t get anymore rain we can still make a wheat crop,” Jones said. “Two months ago they were ready to turn in and say their wheat crop was lost.”
More than 3 inches of rain has fallen this April, about half of this year’s total. The average for April is about 1 inch, according to the National Weather Service.
While the moisture totals are up, temperatures at times have been down. Low temperatures dropped below freezing on April 11 and April 12.
Jones said it usually takes farmers about 10 days to find out the freeze damage extent in their crop.
“That cold was pretty hard to take,” Jones said. “We are just assuming that everything is 100 percent go, but you have to wait and see if there was freeze damage and to what extent it was.”
Below normal temperatures can cause the head on the developing wheat plant to turn brown and when that happens the crop won’t produce, he said.
In Quay County, wheat farmer Ted Rush farms 1,000 acres of wheat near Grady. Portions of his crop might have been harmed by the cold temperatures.
“I might stand to lose 20 percent of my wheat crop because of that,” Rush said.
The deeper moisture may have kept much of the freeze damage from reaching the crop roots, Jones said.
Regardless, the way to ensure a profitable season is continued rain.
“If we don’t get more rain, I will still be able to harvest,” Rush said. “But it would hardly be worth the while.”
Last year, 5.97 inches was dumped on Clovis in June only to be followed up by a dry July coupled with an average high temperature around 94 degrees.
“One month of no rain in the heat of the summer is detrimental,” Jones said.
While mother nature dictates level of success for farmers, Jones said the economy throughout Clovis will be affected as well.
“There are a lot of farmers that if they aren’t making money they aren’t spending money,” he said. “It does have a direct impact on our economy.”
William Thompson of Freedom Newspapers contributed to this report.