GOODWELL, Okla. (AP)--Disease, insect infestations, hail damage and a late freeze don't appear to be stopping hopes for a strong harvest among dry-land Wheat farmers in the Oklahoma Panhandle.
Dry-land farmers--those who grow Wheat on farms without irrigation--have made it through the series of obstacles this spring with their crops still intact.
"This is the first dry-land Wheat harvest that we'll have since 2001," said Rick Kochenowner, an area research and Extension specialist in Goodwell.
Along with the challenges early this year, most of the Panhandle also benefited from adequate rainfall. East of Boise City, most areas received more than four inches of rain in the past 90 days, Kochenowner said.
The next challenge will be whether the Wheat will make it through the rising temperatures and dry winds as summer approaches. It is a dramatic turnaround from the freeze that damaged some crops three weeks ago.
"We went from one extreme to the other, unfortunately," Kochenowner said. "We're just blooming out here. It is going to affect pollination and reduce test weight. It is hard for that plant to get enough moisture to complete the life cycle."
Mark Hodges, executive director of the Oklahoma Wheat Commission, said he is "extremely cautiously optimistic" that the state's Wheat harvest will approach an "average" yield of approximately 160 million bushels. Last year, the state harvested 179 million bushels.
"What is unknown is what these hot, dry winds, the 90-degree temperatures in far western Oklahoma are going to do to us," Hodges said. "We're in the stage of development that that's going to hurt us."
The latest crop-weather bulletin issued by the Oklahoma Agricultural Statistics Service this week rated the state's Wheat condition as 11 percent excellent, 48 percent good, 28 percent fair, 9 percent poor and 4 percent very poor.
Bob Dietrick, who farms about 1,150 dry-land acres of hard white winter Wheat near Tyrone, said the April freeze damaged up to 15 percent of Wheat on some farms.
"The early varieties took a terrible hit on freeze damage because they break dormancy so early," Dietrick said.
Like Hodges, Dietrick said he expected the crop to be average.
"I can show you some good wheat," Dietrick said, "and I can show you some not-so-good wheat."