SPOKANE — The drought has increased protein levels in some of Washington state’s wheat crop, industry representatives say.
Members of the Washington Grain Commission listed the main ill effects the dry growing season has had on the state’s wheat crop during its meeting Sept. 30 in Spokane.
Problems they mentioned included lower yields and protein levels higher than many customers prefer.
Customers in Asia that purchase U.S. wheat have lower protein requirements than much of the soft white wheat in the fields, industry representative Ty Jessup said.
Most overseas customers prefer 10.5 percent protein or less, but the crop has averaged a little more than 11 percent, commissioner Dana Herron said.
The industry does its best to address the issue by sampling protein levels and sorting or blending for the right specifications in the field, bins and railcars, Jessup said.
Herron suggested farmers consider switching from white wheat to red wheat, in which a higher protein level is desired.
“If Mother Nature is going to dictate dry weather for the next six months to a year, and we’re going to end up with a crop in a state that’s high protein, why do you want to get discounted for high protein when you can raise hard red winter wheat or dark northern spring wheat and get a premium for it?” Herron said. “Use Mother Nature to your advantage and get paid for it.”
Herron also said he is concerned about the availability of soft white spring wheat seed next year.
“One of the hardest things for a seed company to judge a year in advance is the demand for a variety like soft white spring wheat, not knowing the circumstances that may lead up to (a farmer’s) ultimate decision,” said Herron, co-owner of Tri-State Seed Co. in Connell, Wash.
If the drought continues, any winter damage will increase demand for spring wheat seed needed for replanting, Herron said.
Herron said the soft white wheat varieties Louise and Diva have been popular, for their drought tolerance and Hessian fly resistance, respectively. He recommends farmers consult with their seed dealer.
“I would really suggest you have that conversation before you need it,” Herron said.
Herron said red wheat supplies should be adequate, barring a winter disaster.
“What the industry really needs is a return to average moisture, then things would be normal,” he said.