Wheat harvest nearly wiped out by drouth

The lack of rain and its affects on agriculture is slowly but surely chipping away at the livelihoods of many McCulloch farmers. For most of the farmers who planted wheat this winter, any hopes of a profitable harvest have dried up just like the ground they sowed. Rain, or the lack of it, weighs heavily on the minds of almost everyone in Central Texas; especially McCulloch farmers and ranchers. Caught in the midst of arguably the worst drouth on record, farmers and ranchers in the area are wondering when it will end. For the fourth year in a row, lack of substantial rain has left some area farmers on the brink of financial ruin while others rely on payments from insured crops to make note payments. Farmers in the Lohn area who still have a wheat crop began their harvest earlier this week. Gene Zelnicek, owner of Zelnicek’s Custom Harvesting and Hauling got the call this weekend that the wheat was dry and harvest time was here. With most of his combines torn down and undergoing repairs and maintenance, a quick scramble was made and three machines were put back together and shipped to Lohn from Hennessey, Okla. “Normally at this time of year, we are getting ready for the harvest,” said Zelnicek. “I had almost all of my machines torn apart and scattered across my yard when I got the call. I guess the dry weather has really sped things up this year.” The effect of the drouth is more evident than ever when considering the normal work load the Lohn area requires come harvest time. “We normally have four or five crews scheduled to be here harvesting for nearly two or three weeks,” said Ronnie Helberg of Lotex Grain in Lohn. “This year, we only have three crews here and they will probably finish up in less than a week.” This year’s wheat crop is estimated at a mere 10 percent of the normal wheat crop in the Lohn area. According to Helberg, almost all producers have disastered out some if not all of their crop. Farmers without crop insurance are being forced to make the decision to cut what crop they can or till it under and try to make it by. “I have been told that this may be the worst drouth ever,” said Helberg. “You can ask people who have lived here for 70 years or more and they’ll say it has been dry before, but never this dry.” Those farmers who are harvesting what they can are seeing yields of a mere 10-14 bushels per acre when normal years yield 35-40 bushels. “I know of one farmer who just disastered out 1,600 acres and another north of here who did more,” said Helberg. “McCulloch is a very agriculturally diversified county but this drouth is beginning to really take its toll. Lohn at least has some wheat crop. Areas around Melvin and Doole have nothing; I mean absolutely nothing.” Rains will come, crops will grow and life for area farmers will once again be a little less stressful. When will all this happen’ There is only one who knows.

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