Dry November worsens Oklahoma wheat crop

Tuesday, December 2nd 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ One of the driest autumns on record has been rough on Oklahoma's wheat crop, farmers say.

The state had a dry summer and little rain in September and October. Most areas received only small amounts of rain in November, according to statistics from the Oklahoma Climatological Survey.

``The consequences are more severe when you have back-to-back dry months,'' said Derek Arndt, assistant state climatologist.

Southwestern parts of the state had the fifth-driest autumn on record, the driest since 1954. In southern Oklahoma, some farmers still were sowing their wheat as late as last week because of lack of rain, said Paul Jackson, who farms near Apache.

Jackson was waiting for his wheat to sprout when about 0.35 inch of rain finally brought it up, he said.

``It wasn't very much rain, but it was enough to do the trick,'' Jackson said. ``I was tickled to see it. It was a blessing.''

Many farmers still are waiting, he said.

Jackson, who surveys several southwestern counties for the Oklahoma Wheat Commission, said the wheat that has come up is drought-stressed.

Jackson won't be able to graze cattle on his wheat this year because it just started to grow. He said many farmers may have to buy hay or feed for their cattle this year.

``Bermuda and native grass in our country is pretty nil,'' he said.

Unusually high temperatures have caused wheat to grow too quickly in some areas, particularly in northern Oklahoma, said Mark Hodges, Wheat Commission executive director. That could mean damage to the plants when a freeze comes, and it could affect grain yield, Jackson said.

Oklahoma City's low temperature of 68 degrees Nov. 3 was the warmest November low ever recorded here, climatological survey figures show. The previous record was 66 degrees Nov. 2, 1938, and again Nov. 8, 1966.

The high of 84 degrees Nov. 1 in McAlester was a record for the day. The previous record at McAlester was 82, set in 1982.

The dry pattern could break somewhat this week.

Eastern and central parts of the state have a 60 percent to 80 percent chance of rain overnight Tuesday and Wednesday, said Ken Gallant, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Norman.