MERKEL, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Heavy rainfall hit the Big Country hard over the past several weeks, which has been a blessing for many farmers and ranchers across the area after years of drought. However, as rain chances continue to pop up in the forecast, the still standing rainwater could create more problems than solutions.
Driving down the white gravel of County Road 454 in Merkel, the leftover clots of mud slung from tires line the roadside. But as you approach Tim Shields’ home, you’ll see a rushing stream flowing from one side of the gravel road into his wheat field.
“In this part of Texas, you don’t ever complain about the rain,” smiled Shields, “because when it quits, it may stay quit for a long time.”
Shields, along with many other Big Country farmers and ranchers, rejoiced in the ample rainfall they have seen over the past month. However, because the standing water is so deep and hidden from the sun underneath Sheilds’ rows of wheat, he said it could start stirring up some trouble.
“Well, we got our combine stuck. That was an ordeal to get a combine out of the mud,” Shields gave as an example.
Nearly three feet deep in mud, Shields told KTAB/KRBC he had to call on an Abilene-based wrecker service just to have enough power to get the combine unstuck. But the frustrations wouldn’t stop there.
“We’ve got a bunch of equipment. We’ve got people working, but we aren’t able to do anything,” said Shields.
To give you an idea of what it’s like in the field, check out the video below and imagine trying to get a 15 ton combine through the thick mud.
Until it becomes dry enough to harvest his wheat crop, Shields has his farmhands doing ‘busy work,’ such as clearing trees and preparing to create a sand and wind barrier for his soon-to-be-planted cotton crop.
Row after row of his wheat field, sitting in standing rainwater, creates another problem called ‘pre-harvest sprouting.’ The National Center for Biotechnology Information defines pre-harvest sprouting as “a critical phenomenon involving the germination of seeds in the mother plant before harvest under relative humid conditions and reduced dormancy.”
Simply put, as the water continues to sit, the likelihood of a pre-harvest sprout can occur which can lead to a detrimental financial impact.
“Wheat sometimes will sprout in the head [of the plant], and it goes from being worth $8.00 a bushel to, I’m guessing, somewhere around $4.00, maybe less,” Shields explained.
That $4.00 difference, according to Shields, can be enough to make a significant profit or a loss in just a few weeks’ time.
However, once it dries up and he can get his cotton seed planted, he said it could be a very successful year.
“The rain is a blessing for the cotton and the cotton farmers,” added Shields. “Most of the guys I know have wheat and cotton, and sometimes one hurts the other.”