Derek Friehe placed first in the irrigated winter wheat category of the National Wheat Foundation's annual wheat yield contest with 206.7 bushels per acre.

He used the Limagrain variety Jet.

Friehe farms with his family near Moses Lake, Wash. They primarily grow potatoes.

Friehe had a good feeling when he entered, noting the region produces good crops.

"We're kind of in that upper tier," he said. "It's always hard to say for sure, but it looked good all year, looked like it definitely had potential, so we identified that field and said, 'Let's put that one in the contest.'"

Friehe credits a combination of weather, good crop advisers who recommended front-loading nutrient management and a good team to execute the plan.

Friehe grew up on the farm and returned five years ago.

"I love the family piece of it, working with siblings and my parents," he said. "And then the cyclical seasonality — seeing crops go from start to finish throughout the year. There's something about working with nature, being dependent on nature, stewarding the land. I love the whole process of it."

Friehe plans to enter the contest again next year. He'd be inclined to raise more wheat, he said, so long as the prices are high.

Placing so high in the contest also helps, though.

"It definitely changes the conversation — we've kind of had a big push to replace wheat and do something else," he said. "Getting these types of yields definitely keeps it in the conversation. It'll probably never go away."

Friehe is one of four farmers the foundation lists as a top "bin buster" in its annual wheat yield contest:

• Bruce Ruddenklau of Amity, Ore., placed first in the dryland winter wheat category with 191.17 bushels per acre, using the Oregon State University variety Rosalyn.

• Trevor Stout of Genesee, Idaho, placed first in the dryland spring wheat category with 139.22 bushels per acre, using the WestBred variety WB9303.

• Terry Wilcox of Rexburg, Idaho, placed first in the irrigated spring wheat category, with 172.6 bushels per acre, using the WestBred variety WB9668.

The foundation received a record 418 entries, up from 397 last year.

"COVID-19 created many setbacks for growers across the country," foundation board president David Cleavinger said in a press release "It is exciting to see that it did not prevent wheat farmers from participating in this year’s contest."

Other Northwest high yield winners:

Irrigated spring wheat

• Dallin Wilcox, of Madison County, Idaho, with 167.02 bushels per acre.

• James Getzinger of Grant County, Wash., with 164.34 bushels per acre.

Dryland spring wheat

Randy Duncan of Benewah County, Washington, with 125.79 bushels per acre

Tom Duyck of Washington County, Ore., with 123.6 bushels per acre.

Irrigated winter wheat

• Joel Zwainz of Lincoln County, Wash., with 197.15 bushels per acre.

• Rylee Reynolds, of Twin Falls County, Idaho, with 196.85 bushels per acre.

Dryland winter wheat

• John Dixon of Garfield County, Wash., with 189.97 bushels per acre

• Doug Stout of Latah County, Idaho, with 179.91 bushels per acre.

Winners are selected by the percentage increase their yield exceeds the most recent five-year county average as determined by USDA.

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