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Heat wave concerns Idaho, eastern Oregon farmers


By SEAN ELLIS



Capital Press






Some farmers are concerned about how their crops handled an early season heat wave that blanketed parts of Idaho and eastern Oregon for more than six days.



The blistering heat wave that started June 28 topped 100 degrees for six straight days in southwestern Idaho, reaching 110 in Boise on July 1. In that part of the state, the high temperature didn't fall below 100 degrees until July 4 and then it hovered in the high 90s for several days.



The heat broke several daily records from Pocatello in eastern Idaho to Boise in the opposite side of the state. In Ontario in eastern Oregon, all-time highs fell on three straight days, including a record 110 on July 1.



Even though he kept a lot of water on his sugar beet and potato plants in Ontario, Duane Grant is unsure how they will fare.



"We're stressing about what's going to happen with them," he said.



Meridian farmer Richard Durant said he's concerned about how the heat affected wheat quality in southwest Idaho.



"We won't know until we get it in the combine, but I'm convinced we're going to see some shrivel on some of the wheat," he said. "The plants couldn't metabolize moisture fast enough. Even if they had water, they couldn't get it up to the head where it's really needed."



In the Boise area, daily record highs were broken three straight days from June 30-July 2 and records were narrowly missed June 28 and 29.



On the afternoons of the hottest days, "We were trying to find some place cool to hunker down," said Sid Freeman, who grows several crops in Caldwell near Boise.



Most farmers had enough advanced warning of the coming heat and were able to "get their crops irrigated up really good going into it," Freeman said. "If you're behind on irrigation going into something like that, you're going to be hurt really bad."



Paul Skeen, who grows onions in Malheur County in eastern Oregon, was watering his crops every five days before the hot spell but switched to every four days to get through it.



"I think for the most part farmers have done a good job ... of trying to keep things wet," he said. But 2013 will be a short water year for many parts of the valley "and some people don't have the water to do that," he added.



Temperatures in the 90s in east Idaho may have helped potato plants grow aggressively but temperatures well above 100 in southcentral and southwest Idaho had to have had a negative impact on the spud crop, said Grant, who farms mainly in southcentral Idaho's Magic Valley.



"The temperatures stayed well above the acceptable range for good crop growth for well over a week and they weren't just a little above that range, they were 15 to 20 degrees above that range," he said. "In the Magic Valley and west, It was just too hot and spuds don't do well in those kinds of temperatures."



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