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June 18, 2014

Kayla Sellers

Montgomery County farmer Jeremy Brown harvests wheat near Snowdoun.

Frequent showers are a blessing for farmers who have corn, cotton and peanuts growing in their fields, but many Alabama wheat farmers are hoping for a few dry days to finish harvesting their crop.

“The rain has slowed down harvest time for wheat farmers across the state,” said Alabama Farmers Federation Wheat and Feed Grains Director Carla Hornady. “We’re hoping the weather will stay dry long enough so farmers can get their crops harvested before they’re lost.”

Alabama farmers planted 230,000 acres of winter wheat, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). Normally by this time of year, more than half of the wheat crop is harvested, but NASS reports this week indicate only 35 percent of the crop is gathered.

Jeremy Brown, a Montgomery County farmer who planted 850 acres of wheat, is in a hurry to harvest his crop following repeated thundershowers. The delay also has him behind in planting soybeans, which immediately follows his wheat crop.

“We are having a decent yield on our wheat this year,” Brown said. “The biggest disadvantage we’ve had is the abnormal amount of rain. We’d like to start harvesting wheat in the middle of May and have soybeans planted by June 15. We’re looking to be more than a month behind on getting our soybeans planted.”

If it’s not harvested on time, the tiny wheat seeds fall off the plant, or in the case of excess rain the seeds begin to sprout on the head of the stalk. Once the seeds germinate, the amount farmers are paid for the crop goes down.

Pickens County farmer Mike Dee said he learned a lesson from last year’s similar situation and tried a different approach to his harvest plan.

“We got so far behind last year because of the rain that we decided to go into the higher moisture wheat and muddier grounds and allowed the wheat to dry in the bins this year,” Dee said. “We were able to beat most of the rain and get a good harvest. We got caught by one storm which cost us a considerable amount of test weight per bushel.”

While consumers typically associate wheat with bread, much of Alabama’s wheat has another destination.

“Some of it will be used for flour, but most of what we grow goes into animal feed,” Brown said.

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