Recent rains help wheat farmers

William Thompson

Quay County wheat farmers are hoping for a bountiful wheat harvest this summer in the aftermath of recent rains in the area. Still, more rain is desired according to agriculture experts.

Greg Martin, the acting County Executive Director of the Farm Service Agency, said that wheat farmers are at a crossroads now. Either more rain will help matters, or dry winds could make matters worse. “Right now there has been enough moisture for the wheat plants to form heads for grain production,” said Martin. “But on the other hand, spring winds could come around and dry everything up prior to harvest.”

Martin said that with a little more rain, a good crop will be ensured. “We’ve had a very good beginning,” he said. “With a little follow-up rain in the next month, we will have a good wheat crop.”

Local farmer David Foote, who farms around 40 acres of wheat just west of Tucumcari, echoed Martin’s guarded optimism for the upcoming harvest in June. “My wheat has greened up really well, “ said Foote. “Still, it’s marginal right now. Wheat farmers have to wait and see if there will be enough rain to make it a good crop.”

Lonnie Bustillos, a statician with the New Mexico Agriculture Statistics Service, said Quay County wheat crops have yielded on average around 20 bushels of wheat per acre over the past six years. “In 2003, we had a yield of 16.6 bushels per acre in Quay County,” said Bustillos. “We can’t speculate as to how many bushels per acre we will have in 2004. We can’t possibly know until after the harvest.”

Bustillos said a bushel of wheat has sold anywhere from $2.70 per bushel to $3.45 per bushel in recent years. “Again, we can’t speculate as to what price a bushel would go for if we have a good crop this year,” he said. “The price will be determined by supply and demand.”

Wheat farmer Ted Rush, who farms 1,000 acres of wheat just west of Grady, said wheat may sell for as much as a dollar per bushel higher this year. “The larger wheat-producing states like Kansas have had a bad crop,” said Rush. “That may drive wheat prices higher.”

Rush also noted that a portion of his wheat crop may have been damaged from last weekend’s overnight temperatures. “Last weekend it got down to 27 degrees for three nights,” he said. “I might stand to lose 20 percent of my wheat crop because of that.”

Rush said some wheat will grow and produce grain without additional rain. “If we don’t get more rain, I will still be able to harvest, but it would hardly be worth the while.”

Bustillos noted that during the first half of April, the Tucumcari area saw a huge amount of rainfall. “The normal rainfall for the month of April is 0.8 inches,” he said. “During the first eleven days of April this year the area had 3.2 inches of rain.”

Farm Service Agency Director Martin said that although he is appreciative of the recent rains, the repercussions of the long-standing drought are still being felt. “Although we have had good rains, the rains have not been significant enough to put more water in Conchas Dam,” said Martin. “There isn’t enough water to really help irrigation. The irrigation district is still very deficient in water. More rains are needed before we can irrigate.”