Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

By Will DeMarco
Gazette Reporter 

Crops looking strong as harvest continues


August 16, 2018 | View PDF

Colfax area farmer Tim Ensley harvested after dark Saturday night on his crop along the Airport Road.

As the 2018 harvest rolls on, growers are reporting encouraging crop numbers.

Pacific Northwest Farmers Co-op Grain Division Manager David Weitz at Colfax said the area's harvest this year is 20-30 percent better than average with 75 percent of grain harvested so far.

"It's been a fantastic harvest," Weitz said. "We have good quality wheat and huge yields."

Weitz attributed the local harvest's success to a combination of high rainfall in the fall and winter, followed by largely cool temperatures this spring and summer. He added that last week's heat wave doesn't seem to have impacted local crops.

"The wheat has not been stressed at all this year," Weitz noted.

Wheat protein is low this year, Weitz said, which he explained is good news for soft white wheat, but can adversely effect hard red winter wheat prices.

Finally, Weitz said falling numbers, referring to the stage at which protein and starch in wheat kernels break down, are not a significant worry for local growers this year.

"I'm seeing a lot of farmers with smiles on their faces," Weitz said.

Mike Bagott, assistant manager at Palouse Grain Growers, called the harvest in his neck of the woods "pretty spectacular overall" with around half of winter wheat harvested so far and spring wheat forthcoming.

"Everybody seems to be pretty happy, especially in relation to the past couple years," Bagott said.

Bagott explained that 2016's harvest was hit hard by falling numbers and 2017 saw low crop yields, but said neither of those issues concern local farmers this year. He also commented that crop prices are meeting or exceeding averages this year.

Echoing Weitz, Bagott said the local weather has cooperated this year to result in a strong harvest.

"If you think about the summer overall, it's been pretty cool," Baggot explained. "We haven't had the longer stretches of brutal heat like years past."

According to Washington Grain Commission Chief Executive Officer Glen Squires, approximately 150 million bushels of wheat are expected to be harvested across the state, up from 142.5 million in 2017.

The statewide winter wheat estimate as of Aug. 10 is 77 bushels per acre, up four from last year, and spring wheat is projected at 48 bushels per acre, which is an increase of three from the previous year.

The state average of winter wheat heads is rated at 42.3 per square foot as of Aug. 10, according to a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) report. This marks a dramatic increase from 35.7 per square foot in 2017. The USDA does not make projections on spring wheat heads.

This year's crop appears to be of high quality, too. The USDA rates 90 percent of Washington's winter wheat and 78 percent of spring wheat as either "good" or "excellent" condition.

Dennis Koong, deputy director of the USDA Northwest Field Office, said winter wheat harvest is 70 percent complete as of Aug. 10, which is down from 71 percent this time last year and below the five-year average of 77 percent. Spring wheat harvest was estimated at 35 percent, compared to 39 percent at this time in 2017 and the 48 percent five-year average.

Helped along by an usually wet fall and winter, Squires said this year's harvest outlook is positive across the board.

"It's a good crop. We've been fortunate to have good soil moisture this year, which has definitely helped," Squires noted.

According to Squires, the statewide protein content average is rated at 9.3 percent.


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