Lack of rain means winter wheat crop in jeopardy

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By Associated Press

CLOVIS, N.M. (AP) — Warm days and little rain mean the winter wheat crop in eastern New Mexico's Roosevelt and Curry counties is in jeopardy.

Farmers in the area say the crop has suffered badly two months into the growing season. If rain doesn't arrive soon, much of the crop may fail.

Rick Ledbetter, a cotton and alfalfa farmer in Roosevelt County, said the situation with wheat crops is not yet serious. He said if local farmers do not see precipitation in the next several weeks, the situation could become dire.

"If we don't get some moisture, we won't be able to harvest the wheat," Ledbetter said. "We'll see some effects on our summer crops, too, if we don't get some moisture."

Ledbetter said he can visibly see the difference in his dry land crops versus those irrigated, but the dry land wheat is still alive. The young wheat just isn't growing.

Curry County commissioner and wheat farmer Frank Blackburn said he has never seen such a dry season in his 60 years in the county but that there's time for rain to help the crop recover.

"I haven't given up yet," Blackburn said. "There's still plenty of time. We need moisture by at least April 1..."

Blackburn said his main concern is wind erosion, because wheat crops are not large enough to withstand harsh, dry winds.

Another Roosevelt County farmer, Kevin Breshears, said winter kill is what farmers will be facing if their wheat crops do not get moisture soon.

"If we don't get any moisture in the next 30 days, it's gonna get serious," Breshears said. "This is a classic La Nina year."

Breshears said the Great Plains area is the largest hard, red winter wheat producer in the U.S.

"We really won't know what damage we have until (the wheat) starts breaking dormancy in the next 30 days," he said.