Agents to report on investigation into wheat mystery at upcoming meeting
By MATTHEW WEAVER
Morrow County, Ore., farmers will meet next week to get the latest information on why 35,000 to 40,000 acres of wheat died last November.
The county's annual winter grower meeting begins at 8 a.m. Jan. 11 at the Legion Hall in Ione, Ore.
Recent samples for barley yellow dwarf virus came back negative, Oregon State University Extension Agronomist Larry Lutcher said. Aphids have been identified as a possible cause.
OSU crop and soil scientist Don Wysocki of the Columbia Basin Agricultural Research Center in Pendleton, Ore., will also share his observations on 16 fields, a total of 4,000 acres, that yellowed or died in adjacent Umatilla County.
Wysocki collected samples and grew out some plants.
"Some of them are coming out of it pretty well and some are not," he said.
Wysocki said he is not certain the Umatilla County situation is the same as that in Morrow County.
There's probably more than one cause, and symptoms are not the same in different fields, Wysocki said.
"If you find one cause in one location, that doesn't necessarily mean the same thing's going on somewhere else," he said.
Wysocki said there is still debate about the cause, although samples tested positive for some herbicides. Based on some of the patterns in the fields, he said there was probably some chemical trespass issues.
Wysocki declined to comment on which chemicals may have drifted. That depends on the Oregon Department of Agriculture's investigation, he said.
In a letter to growers Dec. 28, Oregon Agriculture Director Katy Coba said the department has initiated 19 pesticide use follow-up investigations to determine compliance with the Oregon Pesticide Control Law. The department collected about 70 plant tissue samples for testing in its regulatory lab, specifically for glyphosate residues.
Because the department routinely uses a minimum detectable level of 0.01 parts per million, testing wheat foliage for glyphosate residue is challenging. The department is consulting with glyphosate manufacturer Monsanto and other state regulatory laboratories, Coba said in the letter. She expects to have analytical results by Jan. 21.
The department is also reviewing application records from 51 commercial pesticide operators that worked in the area between Oct. 1 and 30.
The department is planning a follow-up status conference call and meeting the week of Jan. 24.
Other items on the Morrow County meeting agenda include ammonia volatilization in the field, manure applications on dryland wheat and the possible combination of Oregon Wheat Growers League and Oregon Wheat Commission administrative positions.
Lutcher said his discussion will be limited to what he knows at the time.
"This spring, we will need to keep a close eye on the crop," he said.
The meeting concludes at noon. There is no cost. It is sponsored by Morrow County Extension and the Morrow County chapter of the league.