Idaho wheat crop one of ‘best’ ever

Although total Idaho wheat production in 2017 is down 9 percent from last year and 5 percent from the five-year average, growers and industry leaders are reporting excellent overall quality.
Sean Ellis

Capital Press

Published on September 25, 2017 2:02PM

A wheat field near Nampa, Idaho, is harvested Aug. 3. Idaho’s total wheat production in 2017 was 9 percent lower than in 2016 but quality was superb, growers and industry leaders told Capital Press.

Sean Ellis/Capital Press

A wheat field near Nampa, Idaho, is harvested Aug. 3. Idaho’s total wheat production in 2017 was 9 percent lower than in 2016 but quality was superb, growers and industry leaders told Capital Press.

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BOISE — Idaho wheat production in 2017 is 9 million bushels lower than in 2016 and the second lowest level since 2009. But the overall quality of this year’s wheat crop may be the best ever, according to industry leaders.

“Last year we had record yields but quality was (down). This year, the size of the crop is down but quality is just superb,” said Idaho Wheat Commission Executive Director Blaine Jacobson. “It’s one of our best crops ever.”

“The quality of my wheat was good and my yields were good,” said East Idaho grower Gordon Gallup. “Falling numbers, test weights, protein. They were all good, right where they need to be.”

Idaho’s average wheat yield set a record of 91.3 bushels per acre in 2016, far exceeding the previous record of 85.5 bushels per acre set in 2004. This year’s average yield — the 2017 number will be released Sept. 29 — will be down from last year, industry leaders and growers said.

However, quality is excellent, they added.

East Idaho farmer Jerry Brown said that from what he’s seen and heard from growers in his region and other parts of the state, “This is one of the best quality years we’ve had in a long time.”

According to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, Idaho farmers produced an estimated 92 million bushels of winter and spring wheat combined in 2017. That’s down from 101 million bushels in 2016 and below the state’s five-year average of 97 million bushels.

Jacobson said protein levels in this year’s wheat crop were good and falling numbers and test weights were up.

“Our customers should have no trouble finding the specifications they want,” said “Genesee” Joe Anderson, a North Idaho grower.

Tough weather conditions combined to significantly reduce wheat production in some parts of North Idaho, said “Potlatch” Joe Anderson, a North Idaho farmer.

He said his farm’s “total wheat production was about half of what it was last year. I’m hearing that from others as well.”

An extremely wet spring significantly reduced the number of spring wheat acres planted in the region and then an 81-day stretch with no rainfall and unusually hot temperatures was tough on the winter wheat crop, “Potlatch” Joe Anderson said.

While total production in 2017 is down partly because Idaho’s average wheat yield is below last year’s record, planted acres were also down, slightly compared with 2016 and significantly compared with the five-year average.

That’s due in part to depressed wheat prices, Gallup said.

“Acres were down because prices are down,” he said. “With these prices, some growers jumped to other things that were more lucrative. Wheat just didn’t look good on paper.”



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