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E. Oregon, Idaho crops look good as summer approaches

Onions, winter wheat emerge promptly as weather cooperates.

By Brad Carlson

Capital Press

Published on June 4, 2018 10:01AM

Last changed on June 4, 2018 1:03PM

Galen Lee, of New Plymouth, Idaho, reports that crops in his area are ahead of last year. He grows sugar beets, peppermint, asparagus, alfalfa hay and corn and has a beef herd and a dairy.

Courtesy of Galen Lee

Galen Lee, of New Plymouth, Idaho, reports that crops in his area are ahead of last year. He grows sugar beets, peppermint, asparagus, alfalfa hay and corn and has a beef herd and a dairy.

Crop and field conditions in much of Idaho and eastern Oregon look good headed into the key summer growing season.

Milder spring conditions compared to the cold, wet 2017 got many crops — and some weeds and pests — off to a strong start this year. Several farmers like what they see and are optimistic.

“We are ahead of last year. The crops look good,” said Galen Lee of Sunnyside Farm in New Plymouth, Idaho. The farm grows sugar beets, peppermint, asparagus, alfalfa hay and corn. Sunnyside also has a beef herd and a dairy.

Lee said he has seen some weeds in spots, “but the crops are taking off.”

Getting necessary spraying done was one challenge given southwest Idaho’s considerable wind recently, he said.

April was drier than usual in the area, and Lee started irrigating earlier than is typical. This year’s water supply is good, he said.

Malheur County Onion Growers Association President Paul Skeen, who farms near Nyssa, Ore., said onions in the area “have had a really good spring.”

“Things were planted on time, we had good moisture, and the crop looks as good as it has ever looked,” Skeen said. “There are some problems occasionally in a field or two, but for the most part the crop looks excellent.”

The current onion crop’s condition outshines the usual for this time of year and is much better than that of a year ago, he said.

Following last year’s heavy winter and wet spring, onions in eastern Oregon got off to a late start and then endured lots of heat as the 2017 growing season unfolded. Skeen said yields were lower, though onion quality was excellent.

“At this stage, we are looking like we are going to have excellent quality this year, too,” he said.

Skeen is not concerned any more than usual about weeds, weather or pests.

“It’s part of growing onions,” he said. “But the fields are pretty clean and Mother Nature has been, for the most part, pretty good to us.”

The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service on May 29 reported that in southwest Idaho, onions were almost completely emerged and continued to appear in good condition.

In north central Idaho, Robert Blair of Blair Farms, in Kendrick, says fields and crops look good.

“We have had good moisture so far this year. Conditions for growing so far have been very good,” he said.

Seeding in the region is probably “99 percent done” except for some legumes, alfalfa and grass seeding left to do at higher elevations, Blair said.

Winter wheat is “looking good and heading out,” meaning the kernel-containing wheat heads are emerging, he said.

North central Idaho got another dose of rain May 31 and early June 1 — good for crops but possibly increasing risk for diseases like rust in wheat and blight in chickpeas, Blair said. “I’m going to be monitoring that.”

Weather and growing conditions, a mixed bag last year, are good so far, Blair said.

“Right now, we are having ideal growing conditions,” he said. “It has been a little on the cool side, but the moisture we have received here has been really good … keeping the moisture level really good from what’s evaporating out.”

Blair said that a year ago, “we had a couple straight weeks of high-70- to mid-80-degree days the end of May and the first week of June, and a cloudburst rainstorm the first week of June. And that was the last rain we had last year through the growing season.” High heat followed, and spring crops such as spring wheat and legumes did not fare well. Yields were off by at least 15 percent in places, he said.

Ideally, this June will bring some timely rains and will not get won’t get too hot, he said. Highs around 80 and lows in the 50s are good, he said. He plans to watch closely around mid-month for weed issues.

“If you get those timely rains in June, it makes farming that much easier,” Blair said.


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