When reminded about recent welcome rains, some of them in the four-inch plus range, Gregory points out that the extended severe drought has left much of Oklahoma farmland with little, if any, soil moisture for rains to build on.

"We are all fortunate to see these recent rains," he said. "But we need to receive a lot more moisture to fill up the soil profile, particularly in western and southwestern Oklahoma. The western part of Oklahoma is in a more severe state of drought than the rest of the state. We need a lot more rain to put moisture in the subsoil to provide much-needed moisture later in the spring to get summer crops up and to provide surface water for ponds and lakes."

Marvin Wyatt, a Lawton, Okla., farmer, is typical of a lot of farmers who are still waiting to see how much wheat will be declared a loss for crop insurance purposes. "We have looked at our fields with our insurance adjusters, but they are still determining how much of the crop will be declared a loss," he said.

Wyatt expected to harvest a bumper crop this spring and top-dressed his wheat and applied Finesse herbicide at the same time. Knowing Finesse has a plant-back restriction for some crops, he left the herbicide off some of fields just in case any late freezes would leave him needing to plant a second crop to offset the wheat loss.

"We will be planting cotton later in the spring on that land as well as on fields we had already selected for cotton production this year," he said.

"We try to follow a definite crop rotation from one year to the next, but dryland farming in this country demands you stay flexible when making future plans."

Gregory and Scherler agree cotton is a good choice for a crop to replace frozen-out wheat. Cotton varieties grown in North Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas have been developed for dryland production where rainfall keeps the crop growing. Cotton is a good choice for agricultural production in semi-arid climates with low humidity and warm weather. Oklahoma State University research director and cotton Extension program leader Randy Boman believes rotating failed wheat acres in the state's cotton-growing region may be the answer to how farmers can best recover from the recent record-late freezes.

"Lint prices look good at this time, but many producers tend to overlook seed income," he said. "Gin-run cottonseed recently has been of high enough value to cover ginning costs and returns money to the grower. In addition, a cotton rotation could enable growers to diversify wheat weed and disease management programs."
May rains are badly needed to refill subsoil moisture across southwestern Oklahoma to make this rotation a viable option, Boman said.
For insurance purposes, far southwestern Oklahoma counties have a non-irrigated final planting date of June 20. The date is June 10 for most other Oklahoma counties.


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