Oklahoma City — In an ironic twist, the start of harvesting Oklahoma's drought-damaged wheat crop has been delayed by rain.
The harvest, which is expected to be the worst yield in more than 50 years, began Thursday near Frederick in Tillman County, The Oklahoman reported. But Friday storms brought rain that delayed the harvest and was too late to help the area's wheat fields, according to Mike Cassidy, co-owner of the grain elevator company Cassidy Grain in Frederick.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates this year's wheat crop yield in Oklahoma will be 62.7 million bushels, down 41 percent from last year, with an average yield of 19 bushels per acre.
If the prediction is correct, it will be the worst wheat crop in the state since 1957 when 43 million bushels were harvested, said Mike Schulte, executive director of the Oklahoma Wheat Commission.
"We have been in this drought period for the past five years, and there are concerns that the potential exists for us to repeat this pattern next year," Schulte said.
The one field that Cassidy saw had been completely harvested yielded just nine bushels per acre, he said. A late freeze in April and continuing drought conditions have been particularly hard on the crop in the southwestern part of the state, so much of it likely will be used to feed livestock.
"Most of the acres here will either be grazed out or baled up for hay and insurance," Cassidy said.
In northern Oklahoma, the harvest won't begin for about another week.
Near Burlington in Alfalfa County, farmer Keith Kisling said he believes this year's crop will be the poorest he's harvested in 45 years of farming.
"I can't remember the last time we had half an inch of rain at one time," Kisling said, adding that he will have to rely on his federal crop insurance, and hopes for a better harvest in 2015.
"There won't be any money to be made, but maybe enough to survive and get another crop next year," he said.