RMA pushes back East Idaho fall grain planting dates

Grain is harvested in Bonneville County, Idaho. USDA's Risk Management Agency has pushed back the final planting dates for the 2018 fall grain crop to help farmers three Eastern Idaho counties avoid exposure to certain diseases in their crops and still be eligible for the winter insurance endorsement.

POCATELLO, Idaho — USDA’s Risk Management Agency has moved back the final planting dates for farmers raising fall grain in three Eastern Idaho counties, protecting insurance eligibility for growers who delay planting to avoid exposure to some diseases.

Final planting dates for RMA’s winter coverage endorsement for the 2018 crop year have been moved back to Oct. 31 in Bannock, Bingham and Bonneville counties. The final planting dates had been Oct. 15 in Bannock and Bingham counties and Sept. 30 in Bonneville County.

Ben Thiel, director of RMA’s Spokane Regional Office, said his office reviewed the request and determined that the growing season is continuing later into the fall, and the change is actuarially sound to help avoid losses to certain crop diseases.

“The Risk Management Agency continuously works with and listens to stakeholders to ensure its policies are meeting the needs of producers,” Thiel said in a press release.

University of Idaho Extension cereals pathologist Juliet Marshall explained delaying planting by a week or two helps growers avoid exposing fall grain to aphids that pass through in the early fall and transmit barley yellow dwarf virus. The disease can reduce grain yields by 15 to 30 percent, and greater than 50 percent in extreme cases, Marshall said.

Marshall said Idaho grain farmers who delayed planting last fall had few problems with barley yellow dwarf this season. However, she said a few growers south of Burley planted in their normal window and had upward of 95 percent of their grain infected with barley yellow dwarf. Marshall said delaying fall planting can also help growers reduce foot rot, stripe rust and wheat streak mosaic virus.

Stacey Satterlee, executive director with Idaho Grain Producers Association, said the insurance endorsement covers growers for winter kill and crop problems associated with heavy snow and winter weather.

Satterlee said she’s heard several inquiries from growers about the revised planting dates. Satterlee said growers in Bonneville County have been especially concerned about RMA’s early final planting dates, and many of them avoided planting winter wheat last fall rather than follow the RMA dates.

“I’m wondering if we won’t see a little more winter wheat,” Satterlee said.

Brett Wilken, with Thresher Artisan Wheat, who recommended the change to industry leaders, said the timing of the fall’s first freeze is occurring later than before, with the first freeze of last fall occurring in November.

Wilken believes the change in planting dates is especially timely given the roughly 70-cent-per-bushel premium hard red winter wheat brings over soft white wheat. Wilken explained growers often like to follow potatoes with fall wheat to take advantage of the residual nitrogen to boost protein levels, and the revised planting dates should “give growers more opportunities to plant behind potatoes.”

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