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E. Oregon wheat growers see higher yields

Where to put the harvested crop may be a challenge as yields increase


East Oregonian Publishing Group

This year's uncharacteristically cool, wet spring in Eastern Oregon has pushed back harvest on all commodities, and wheat is no exception.

Harvest typically begins on the west side of Umatilla County around July 5, but this year producers say they are about 10 days behind.

It's not necessarily bad news, though, as the extra precipitation this spring has increased yields.

Growers in Morrow County also have started harvest and will be going full speed ahead by the end of the week, said Duane Disque, Morrow County Grain Growers grain buyer.

Besides the weather pushing back harvest, there were problems with stripe rust, a fungal disease that can stunt the growth of the plants.

"The stripe rust infestation this year was the worst in memory," said Steve Petrie, Columbia Basin Agricultural Research Center superintendent. "Many growers in this area had to make three applications of fungicides."

Typically, when producers do see stripe rust, they can wipe it out with one application, he said.

But even after their problems with stripe rust, growers are experiencing positive results.

"Our yields are doing really good. We are getting 50 to 60 bushels on what is usually 20- to 30-bushel ground," said Tim Hawkins, who is currently harvesting in the Butter Creek area.

The combination of harvest being pushed back and increased yields does present somewhat of a challenge to both the producers and Pendleton Grain Growers, Hawkins said.

"The biggest challenge is getting the wheat away," Hawkins said. "The last thing you want is combines sitting out there full waiting to get dumped, and that also presents a challenge on PGG's end."

To help alleviate some of this problem, Hawkins has rented an additional combine, has an extra bank-out running -- tractor and trailer that hauls wheat from the combine to the truck -- as well as an extra semitrailer to go to the elevator.

The high yields aren't an issue yet, but as the summer goes on, growers in other areas will start harvesting and the amount of wheat going to the grain elevators will dramatically increase.


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