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Farmers Set Beet, Wheat Yield Records

by John O'Connell
Capital Press, January 19, 2012

Idaho takes over North Dakota as barley leader

Idaho farmers set records for sugar beet and spring wheat yields and made their state the national leader in barley production during 2011, a new USDA report confirms.

When a wet spring delayed planting, sugar beet growers initially worried their yields would suffer. Instead, the extra moisture led to exceptional germination, followed by a long growing season, said Mark Duffin, executive director of the Idaho Sugar Beet Growers Association.

The state's average sugar beet yield at 34.5 tons per acre was up 3.5 tons from 2010. Sugar beet production totaled 6.07 million tons, up 15 percent from 2010, and harvested acreage was up 6,000 acres at 176,000 acres.

"Sugar content was down a little bit, but quality was good," Duffin said, adding two-thirds of the 2011 crop has been processed. "They're going through the factory in good condition. They're storing good."

Duffin said sugar demand has remained strong.

The USDA's decision last winter to partially deregulate Roundup Ready sugar beet seed covers growers through the end of this year. Once again, growers will have to undergo training and become certified prior to purchasing their Roundup Ready seed.

Duffin said last year's program worked well, and little will change, though more monitoring will be required of farmers as they'll have to check both this year's beet fields and last year's fields.

The state's record spring wheat yield -- 84 bushels per acre -- was up 6 bushels from 2010. Spring wheat production totaled 52.1 million bushels from 620,000 acres harvested.

Total wheat production in Idaho was 116 million bushels, up 8 percent.

Power County Extension Educator Reed Findlay attributes much of the growers' success with spring wheat to the efforts of Juliette Marshall, a University of Idaho Extension cereal pathologist.

While the cool, wet spring was perfect for crop growth, Findlay said stripe rust also thrives in those conditions. Marshall noticed high levels of the fungus in test plots in time to warn growers.

"Usually we don't spray for stripe rust. Had we not sprayed this year, a lot of those test plots showed we could have had 80 percent reductions in yields," said Findlay, who worked with Marshall on the problem.

Idaho Wheat Commissioner Joe Anderson, of Potlatch, believes stripe rust fungicides also helped growers in an unexpected way.

Anderson speculated, "A lot of wheat got sprayed for rust. Not only did it control rust, but perhaps there's a background level of disease every year we don't spray for."

Findlay said bad weather and a shift in acreage toward corn in North Dakota, traditionally the top barley state, helped Idaho become the national barley leader. Barley production in Idaho was up 8 percent at 46.5 million bushels from 500,000 harvested acres.

Nationally, the report concludes unfavorable planting and growing conditions led U.S. farmers to produce a smaller crop than in 2010.

For the first time since 2002, U.S. production was down for all four major crops -- corn, soybeans, cotton and wheat.

John O'Connell
New Grain Terminal Slated for Spring Construction
Capital Press, January 19, 2012

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