Combine, wheat

Courtesy photo

CASPER (WNE) —Wyoming’s crop production fell last year as the state produced the smallest winter wheat harvest since 1944. 

Production was also down for barley, sugar beet, dry edible beans, pinto beans and corn for grain. 

Drought, a reduction in planting and pests all contributed to the reduced harvests, said Leslee Lohrenz, Wyoming’s USDA agricultural statistician. 

“I’d guess the main cause is that input costs are higher than usual — and extreme weather,” she said. 

Rising farm production costs were a major factor for producers in 2022, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said. In 2021, total farm input expenses — fuel and oil, livestock, fertilizer — increased about $29.8 billion compared to the year prior. 

Portions of southeast Wyoming — including Laramie, Albany, Goshen, Platte, Converse and Niobrara counties — were all considered to be in extreme drought conditions as of Jan. 10, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. 

In 2022, the corn for grain crop was 18% below the previous year, the Mountain Regional Field Office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service said. Wyoming’s barley seeded area was down 7,000 acres. Sugar beet production decreased by 10%, dry edible beans decreased by 16% and pinto beans decreased by 14% last year. 

Three crops managed to increase output: hay, winter wheat seedlings and seedlings of alfalfa and alfalfa mixtures. 

In Wyoming, the intensity of future droughts is projected to worsen, even if precipitation increases, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a 2022 state report. This will likely impact crop production for years to come. 

“Increases in evaporation rates due to rising temperatures may increase the rate of soil moisture loss during dry spells. Thus, future summer droughts, a natural part of Wyoming’s climate, are likely to become more intense,” the report said.

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