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Idaho Spring Wheat Harvest Sets Record

by John O-Connell
Capital Press, October 6, 2011

Idaho growers are winding up a record-setting spring wheat harvest thanks to a wet spring followed by good weather later in the season.

Gem State spring wheat yields are unprecedented at 84 bushels per acre, up 6 bushels from a year ago, according to a report issued Sept. 30 by the National Agricultural Statistics Service. The state's 2011 spring wheat crop has also set a production record at an estimated 52.1 million bushels grown from 620,000 acres, up 9 percent from the 48 million bushels harvested in 2010.

The report shows 55 percent of the spring wheat crop was planted in white wheat and 45 percent was hard red.

"It was a late start obviously, but it looks like the nice weather in August and early September really turned it around for us, and obviously the fact that we have not had a water shortage," said Bill Sigrist, an agricultural statistician with NASS.

Statewide, the report on small grains shows increases in both total wheat and barley production from 2010 but a sharp decline in oat production.

The state's total wheat production is up 8 percent from 2010 to 116 million bushels. Winter wheat production totaled 63.1 million bushels from 770,000 harvested acres, up 8 percent from the previous year. At 82 bushels per acre, the winter wheat yield was unchanged from last year.

Barley production totaled 46 million bushels from 500,000 acres, up 6 percent from last year, with unchanged yields at 92 bushels per acre. The report reflected a 37 percent decline in oat production, with a total of 1.05 million bushels harvested.

As a pair of combines cut the last of his hard red spring wheat crop, Rockland dry farmer Scott Wegner said 2011 brought a mixed bag for Southeast Idaho growers.

Wegner didn't have high hopes for his 240-acre barley field given how late he was in planting it. Though he didn't finish seeding it until June 11, he was pleasantly surprised with a 48-bushel yield, apparently helped by the wet spring and warm late summer.

"We're kind of out of a drought cycle. The moisture levels are getting better," Wegner said.

Contrary to the grain report, Wegner was happier with his winter wheat crop than his spring wheat.

"It's been kind of a funny growing season; some yields were high, and some were lower than what we were looking for," Wegner said.

Carl Hofmeister, also a Rockland dry farmer, was somewhat disappointed by this year's wheat harvest, given the amount of precipitation the state has received, and he believes another late-season rain would have helped. Weather conditions never allowed his winter wheat roots to fully develop.

As for spring wheat, Hofmeister said, "We got off to a really nice start on spring wheat, and then it turned dry.

"It's kind of been an odd year for us. I think that's kind of a general consensus through the valley out here."

John O-Connell
Idaho Spring Wheat Harvest Sets Record
Capital Press, October 6, 2011

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