COTTON COUNTY, Okla. - Oklahoma wheat farmers are getting the reputation of selling "Dirty Wheat" and that is cutting down on sales.
"Dirty Wheat" means it is taken to the processors with foreign materials in it, such as weeds or broken or shrunken kernels. It is a big problem because there is so much wheat on the market, no one has to buy Oklahoma's, so many buyers are not.
Cotton County wheat farmer Jimmy Kinder says "Dirty Wheat" happens when a grower replants the same crop season after season. The weeds adapt and they crop up season after season, too. Herbicides do not work because the weed is similar to the wheat. So, while it might kill the weeds, it would also kill the wheat.
Clean wheat has reddish brown kernels. Kinder says you can always tell "Dirty Wheat" when you see it. Other organic matter is mixed in.
"Things that grow in and among the wheat, and is harvested with the wheat and then gets contaminated," said Kinder.
Then, all of it goes to the processing center before shipped off to a wheat mill, weeds and all. Millers do not pay for the dirty part. They take off a percentage depending on how long it takes to get rid of the stuff that is not wheat.
"So when we take it in as a farmer we actually, say wheat is $4 we may get docked $0.20. So we're netting $3.80," said Kinder.
It often hits the farmer hard. Kinder says he heard about a local farmer who sold his wheat at harvest for $2.80, but then they docked him $2. So his net gain per bushel was a tiny $0.80. Kinder says farmers need to rotate crops. That is what he has to do.
"To break the cycle of weeds, we change crops so that that wheat can't live amongst the wheat."
Kinder says some farmers opt to use herbicides, but says they do not work well.
"Most of the weeds that we have are very similar to wheat. So if you got an herbicide that kills a weed, it sometimes damages the wheat."
Kinder says he is able to use about 5% of the bad stuff found in the wheat. He uses it as cattle field. He says you reap what you sow.
Kinder says that while Oklahoma farmers plant a lot of milo, sesame, and cotton, they are trying to promote canola, which is a new crop to the area.