Harsh winter, soggy spring blamed for weak winter wheat crops in Ottawa County

Published: Jul. 25, 2019 at 6:16 PM EDT
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Like many farmers Michael Libben is making the best of an otherwise unimpressive winter wheat crop.

"I lost one field due to the wet weather, the spring, and the other field I harvested," Libben said. "Anything that's out there growing has had a tough time."

On top of handling his own crops Libben also checks on other fields in his role with the Ottawa Soil and Water Conservation District.

"This wheat field behind us is averaging about 30 percent less yield than it normally would," Libben said of a field off State Route 19 just north of Oak Harbor.

On average, Libben says Ottawa County normally plants between 7,000 and 8,000 acres of winter wheat each year. Extreme weather took a toll on that figure this year causing about 90 percent of crops to be ruined.

"It went through the winter—the harsh winter we had—and the spring time, as wet as it was, it had a very tough time surviving that," Libben said.

For wheat that did survive Libben says there's now a push to harvest before more rain moves in.

"The drying down and getting wet again—it can open that wheat head up and you can lose your wheat out of the plant," Libben said. "So that's the real concern."

With less wheat around this year Libben says those rely on straw will also feel the pinch, especially in their wallets.

"The less ... acres less of wheat harvested is that much less straw that's being harvested and available for livestock and for the landscaping industry."

Even with low yields Libben says most farmers are just grateful to have a harvest after a year of unusual weather.

"You've kinda' got to roll with the punches and make the best of it," Libben said.