The Future of Wheatby Lee Hadwiger
Moscow-Pullman Daily News, August 24, 2021
The prolonged drought and water reserves bring forward a concern related to the yield of wheat on the Palouse. I came to Pullman in the 1960s from a dry region of Oklahoma and was amazed at how the wheat could stay healthy until harvest during minimal summer rainfall.
I was anxious to get some Washington varieties of wheat, that yield ~100 bushels per acre, back to the family farm in Oklahoma and did send enough for our renter to plant a test acre. It grew well until the hot winds of May and June hit and subsequently shriveled, yielding less than the local early maturing varieties that often yield fewer than than 30 bushels.
My scientist friends state that the wheat yields on the Palouse are directly and precisely related to the amount of rainfall. A rainfall close annually to that on our Oklahoma farm. The difference being the ability of the moisture to be retained by the soil that comes with the Palouse conditions.
Are these conditions being changed by global warming? Is this year a prediction of things to come? We do not irrigate wheat and the aquifers are inadequate anyway. Will we need the water behind the Snake River dams? Whether we realize it or not, agriculture is a mainstay of our economy on the Palouse.
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