CENTRAL TEXAS — July brought its fair share of rain and August has followed suit. All that moisture has fostered the growth of some unwanted guests. We're talking about weeds.
Earlier this month we spoke with Hungate Farm, which was in a battle of its own due to all the rain. But for farmers of crops like wheat, oats, and milo, finding time to cut isn't the problem. Their issue lies with an intruder in the ground. Farmer Rodney Schmalriede says that the definition of a weed is simple: it's any unwanted plant.
"That's not what we're going to grow. We don't want it. It's unwanted, it's a weed," said Schmalriede.
The wheat and oat crop has been fighting weed growth since the beginning of the growing season. February's winter storm had a lot to do with that.
"It stunted back a lot of our wheat. And our oats, burned back the oats. And then when the oats and wheat were trying to come back, the weeds made a flush as well," said Schmalriede.
An abnormally wet summer has further contributed to the problem. Farmers can fight the weeds in one of two ways: plow the fields or turn to spraying. Roots of the weed may not come out when plowed if the ground is wet, and that's when spraying is used.
"We as farmers do not enjoy using the chemicals because they're expensive. But we do use the ones that are, you know, as absolutely safe as possible," said Schmalriede.
Farmers have to carry a license to use certain chemicals for spraying because of the danger involved.
Schmalriede says they take the utmost care to make sure those chemicals are contained. The last thing someone wants is for those chemicals to make it into neighboring fields. Certain chemicals are more desirable than others because of the minimal effect on crops. Getting rid of the weeds as soon as possible, and as safely as possible, is the priority. Any weed left in the ground could rob the crops of nutrients and moisture. The fields must be paid frequent attention so none of the crops are lost. Even after a harvest, the battle doesn't stop.
"There's still some leftover nutrients after we finish a crop. There's still leftover fertilizer," said Schmalriede. "There's still leftover, you know, stuff that each plant can use. We don't want to feed a weed."
Schmalriede has moved on to harvesting his milo fields, and he says he will plow the fields afterward to minimize any weed growth. Spraying will commence after that if the weeds survive. Just like how the plows may get stuck in the mud if the ground is soggy, the spraying equipment may become tricky to operate if the ground cannot dry out.
What the milo farmers are hoping for now is some hot and rain-free weather, so they can get their harvest in without a hitch.