Idaho wheat production up 4 percent

Wheat is harvested at Johnson Farms in Tyhee, Idaho, Aug. 2. Idaho farmers produced 101.9 million bushels of wheat in 2013, a 4 percent increase over 2012.

BOISE — Idaho farmers harvested slightly fewer wheat acres this year but higher yields resulted in production to increase compared to 2012.

According to a Sept. 30 USDA report, Idaho producers harvested 1.24 million acres of wheat during the 2013 season, down 1 percent compared with 2012, but production totaled 101.9 million bushels, a 4 percent increase.

The 4 percent increase in production followed a 16 percent decrease last year.

The increased production was largely due to higher yields, particularly in north Idaho, said Idaho Wheat Commission Executive Director Blaine Jacobson. The five-year average for wheat yields in Idaho is 77 bushels per acre but this year’s total was 82 bushels per acre.

The increased production was achieved despite significant weather-related challenges, including frost, severe heat and a reduced water supply, faced by many farmers, said Idaho Grain Producers Association Executive Director Travis Jones.

“It’s very promising that even with the pretty erratic weather patterns we had this year, Idaho farmers still were able to increase their yields,” he said.

North Idaho farmers said they were blessed with very timely rains in June that helped make this year’s crop above average.

Winchester farmer Eric Hasselstrom said his area didn’t receive a lot more precipitation than normal, but the rain came at the right time and helped increased his yields by about 20 percent above average.

“That little bit of moisture made a huge difference in yields,” he said.

Eric Odberg, who farms near Genesee, said it had looked like it was going to be a dry year until the June rains hit and they resulted in above-average yields and good protein.

“If those rains had come a week or two later, it probably would have been too late,” he said. “We were very blessed in getting those June rains.”

The north Idaho rains were spotty and not all farmers were able to benefit from them, said Potlatch area farmer Joe Anderson. But for those who did, they helped significantly.

“We did have part of our (crop) that was exceptional this year and I think it primarily was due to the weather,” he said.

Farmers in southern and eastern Idaho produced another strong wheat crop, Jacobson said.

“So much of the wheat crop in that area is under irrigation that you always have a consistent crop in those areas,” he said.

Dryland farmers in southeast Idaho suffered through a bad frost, much higher temperatures than normal and bug problems, but only a small portion of the state’s wheat crop is produced in that area.

About 60 percent of Idaho’s wheat crop comes from the irrigated fields of southern and eastern Idaho, 30 percent comes from the high-rainfall areas of north Idaho and 10 percent from the dryland fields of southeast Idaho.

The extreme weather conditions faced by southeast Idaho growers got a lot of headlines this year, Jacobson said, but overall the state’s wheat crop was a good one.

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