NAMPA, Idaho — Record winter snowfall followed by a steady string of spring rainstorms delayed by several weeks the planting of many crops in the Treasure Valley that straddles the Idaho-Oregon border.
It’s also pushed field work back significantly.
“Everything is behind,” said Meridian, Idaho, farmer Richard Durrant. “A lot of spraying, fertilization and other things that still need to be done hasn’t happened yet.”
Many farmers told Capital Press they are not overly concerned by the late start and expect their crops to turn out OK with a normal summer.
But they also say the late start means a repeat of last year’s record yields for many crops is unlikely.
“Without a doubt, it will make a little difference in yields,” said Eastern Oregon farmer Craig Froerer.
While yields for sugar beets grown in Idaho and Malheur County, Ore., set a record in 2016, he said, “I don’t think you can expect that this year with how late in the game we are.”
Many farmers in the area were late getting in their fields because record or near-record amounts of snowfall left fields saturated when it melted. That was exacerbated by persistent spring rainstorms that have only recently broken.
During the past 10 days the Treasure Valley has had much warmer and drier weather.
Many crops started slowly but are responding to the more favorable growing conditions, said Paul Skeen, president of the Malheur County Onion Growers Association.
Skeen planted the majority of his onions two to three weeks later than usual.
“But with this hot weather we’ve had (recently), they are really starting to jump,” he said. “Sugar beets are a little bit behind but they’re also really coming on.”
Skeen agrees the late start will have an impact on yields.
“We have a good crop coming but yields, in my opinion, are going to be below average because of the lateness,” he said.
According to Stuart Reitz, an Oregon State University Extension cropping systems agent in Malheur County, as of June 1 the area had 16 fewer heat degree days than last year and 12 fewer than in 2015. Heat degree days are calculated by subtracting a reference temperature, which varies by crop, from the daily mean temperature. The higher the mean temperature, the more heat degree days are recorded.
Reitz agreed that yields will depend on how the summer plays out.
“If we get some good, warm but not too hot conditions, things should finish off OK,” he said. “But if it stays cool and rainy, some of those late-planted crops may not turn out too well.”
Across Idaho and Eastern Oregon, sugar beets were on average planted two weeks later than during recent years, said Clark Alder, an area agronomist for grower-owned Amalgamated Sugar Co.
“But the crop is progressing nicely, especially with the nicer weather we have had” recently, he said. “I don’t think we’ll have the same type of bumper crop like we had last year but we will have a nice crop if we get a summer like we had last year.”