WSU puts decision-making tools online for farmers
Washington State University’s new online tools can help farmers select the right grain varieties and make fertilizer decisions, a researcher says.
The university is making its Extension materials and research data more easily accessible to growers, said Drew Lyon, weed science researcher and leader of the WSU Extension Small Grains team.
A wheat variety selection tool on the website allows growers to enter information about their area and access variety testing data compiled by WSU Extension Specialist Stephen Guy.
“Guy’s variety testing program has lots of sites, lots of data — it’s almost mind-boggling,” Lyon said. “This is a tool that helps to quickly sort through it and help growers make decisions.”
The tool ranks varieties by two-year yield averages across all testing sites in rainfall zones and classes; the university may change that to three-year yield averages, Lyon said.
“You want as much data as possible,” he said. “Picking the right variety is one of the most important decisions a grower makes. This data has always been there, but it’s required people to do a lot of searching.”
The tool can also be sorted by protein, test weight or other key characteristic, such as snow mold resistance. Lyon hopes to eventually allow growers to compare a variety’s results on the testing site closest to their operation.
The website also includes several nitrogen calculators, to use soil tests to decide how much to apply or help farmers measure nitrogen post-harvest, Lyon said.
“We’ve tried to keep the tools fairly simple, so there’s not a lot of input on the farmer’s part,” he said.
The website features testing of a tool to compare stored soil water in the spring and historical precipitation averages to predict spring wheat yield. Growers can decide whether to plant spring wheat or fallow their land. Lyon hopes farmers will try the test and share feedback.
Future tools may include a tool for herbicide resistance or to keep track of growing degree days for weed management.
Lyons welcomes farmer feedback.
“A website is never complete; we’re always modifying it,” he said. “We can do that best when we hear from growers.”