OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma wheat harvest has begun in parts of the state and grain elevator operators are optimistic that the crop will be the best in several years.
The Oklahoma Grain and Feed Association has estimated that this year's crop will yield 130.6 million bushels, which would be up from the 98.8 million in 2015 and the dismal 47.6 million in drought-stricken 2014, which was the lowest total since 1957, when 43 million bushels were harvested.
The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry reports that the five-year average harvest is 96 million bushels, and reports that Oklahoma ranks third in the nation in wheat production.
Mike Rosen, manager of Wheeler Brothers Grain in Kingfisher, told The Oklahoman that it's too soon to predict the final quality of the harvest, but early indications are positive.
"We had full fields harvested, and it was quality. The first impression is that the yields are going to be pretty good," Rosen said.
The harvest is not only improved in Oklahoma, as wheat production worldwide is expected to be at record levels. This is driving down the price.
"There's a lot of grain around, and I just encourage farmers to think about their marketing plans, because there's a lot of bushels out there," said Brady Sidwell, owner of Enterprise Grain Co. in Kremlin in Garfield County
Weather is also a factor, rain is forecast for the coming week and has already delayed the harvest in parts of the state, making it critical the fields dry enough that the farmers can get into them and harvest the grain, said Mike Schulte, executive director of the Oklahoma Wheat Commission.
"It is just going to be important that we can get into the field as soon as possible now that the crop is ready," Schulte said. "Everyone in the industry is hoping the rains will soon subside so we can move forward."
In northeastern Oklahoma, Pond Creek Farmers Grain general manager Kent Pricket said, because of the wet fields there, harvest is still a week to 10 days from beginning.
Still, the crop looks promising, after benefiting from a wet early spring, followed by hot, windy days, Pricket said.
"Overall, we're set to have a pretty decent year if it doesn't keep raining," he said.