The start of summer also ushers in the steady rhythm of wheat harvest across the plains. What typically is picture-perfect setting of beauty from amber waves of grain is one that shows the scars of drought.
In the Texas panhandle, farmers saw not even a half of an inch of rain during the heart of the growing season. As a result, yields are poor in the fields that did survive. Scott Irlbeck, a farmer in Tulia, Texas, says dryland wheat in his area yielded 8 to 10 bu. per acre. On a good year, the fields that don’t have irrigation can yield around 20 bu. per acre.
“Considering the lack of rainfall we received since way back in the fall, I wasn’t surprised with dryland yields of wheat,” Irlbeck says. “I was surprised with some of the wheat. I tried to irrigate. I thought I’d have a little bit better yields, but that wasn’t the case either. I was ending up with 25 to 30 bushels an acre on irrigated, which isn’t great.”
The latest USDA Crop Progress Report showed 72 percent of Texas’ wheat crop was harvested as of Sunday, June 19, which is 7 percentage points ahead of normal.