Despite the disastrous weather seen over much of the nation, the 2011 hard red winter wheat (HRW) harvest is off to a reasonable start in southern states. Harvest began in the coastal regions of Texas just over three weeks ago, reached the Blacklands/Hill Country region south of Dallas in early May week, and moved already to the Texas/Oklahoma border last week, before rain shut the combines down.
This harvest is about two weeks ahead of normal for southern Oklahoma, an indicator of how devastating the drought has been. South Texas has been reporting good test weights and very good protein on the wheat that has been harvested. However, triple-digit temperatures, low humidity and high winds over a wide area of the Southern Plains significantly affected an already dismal crop.
The Texas Panhandle, Oklahoma and areas of southwest Kansas experienced these same conditions with a crop that ranges in maturity from the final stages of grain fill in Oklahoma to just pollinating in Kansas. These crop development stages are the most vulnerable time for the weather to be putting high moisture demands on plants with limited root development due to drought. Many of these same areas were hit in early April with a late freeze.
Based on USDA's May yield estimate for Texas (numbers compiled before the high moisture demands in early May), a large area of western Texas which harvested just over 103 million bushels last year will only harvest an estimated 23 million bushels this year. Many of the acres have been plowed under for insurance purposes. Growers only hope to receive rainfall to come back with a fall crop.
In an opposite weather trend, growers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Georgia have started their harvest despite heavy rains, tornadoes and the raging floods that are likely to damage much wheat in or near the Mississippi River Delta regions.