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Kendyl (4), Rocky (8) and Carlee (6) Howard enjoy harvest at the family farm near Dayton.
Photo by Julie Howard

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FARMER'S TOOLBOX

HARVEST 2018

Harvest 2018 is over and farmers are now working on planting for harvest 2019. During the summer, Wheat Life staff were out and about taking pictures in as many counties as we could get to. We showed some of those photos in our October 2018 issue, but here's a bunch we couldn't fit. See more


Ag tour is in session

Legislators, staff spend day learning about challenges industry faces

July 2018
By Trista Crossley


State legislators got a little taste of agriculture in June during the all ag legislative tour in Prosser, Wash., where pesticides, labor needs and environmental stewardship were all on the menu.

“This was a great opportunity to bring legislators out to the farm to see first hand the challenges and opportunities faced by growers,” said Marci Green, president of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers (WAWG). WAWG was one of the sponsors of the tour, along with other commodities such as potatoes, wine, tree fruit, dairy and asparagus. “No matter what we are growing or where we are growing it, we all face similar issues, whether those are regulatory, environmental or workforce related. Legislators were able to ask questions directly to farmers and see the problems or solutions rather than just hearing about them.” See more


AMMO: Putting nitrogen management in the spotlight

AMMO session focuses on inputs to influence yield, protein

May 2018
By Trista Crossley


At the last Agricultural Marketing and Management (AMMO) winter workshop of 2018, Dr. Romulo Lollato, Extension wheat and forages specialist and assistant professor from Kansas State University (KSU), tackled nitrogen management and explored current research on intensive wheat management.

Because wheat kernels are 60 to 70 percent starch and only 8 to 15 percent protein, yield is mostly a function of starch, while nitrogen availability impacts protein. Lollato explained that the more starch a kernel has, the less percent protein and vice versa. Protein starts to accumulate in the kernel about 10 days after flowering with significant starch accumulation beginning a few days later. About 20 days from flowering, the kernels have nearly half of their protein (see slide 1). Conditions late in the grain-filling period, such as drought or heat stress, can impact starch accumulation and therefore the ratio of protein to starch. See more


Keeping the dust down

Pilot program encourages alternative tillage methods for former CRP land

March 2018
By Trista Crossley


For years, farmers have been able to protect erosion-prone lands by enrolling them in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). But now, thanks to a CRP enrollment cap, some of the most fragile soils in Eastern Washington are in danger of blowing away. A new pilot program in Benton, Franklin and Klickitat counties is hoping to help farmers keep that soil on the ground instead of in the air.

“In the past few years, we’ve had major dust storms that have overwhelmed the controls that are already in place,” said Brook Beeler, Eastern Washington communications director for the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology). “We are concerned that if the lands come out of CRP and go back to conventional tilling, it could make the problem worse in the future.” See more


Searching for a cure

Health insurance, or lack thereof, drives a myriad of farm decisions

February 2018
By Sue Lani Madsen


Insurance is vital to every farmer’s risk management strategy. And a U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded survey of farmers and ranchers found it’s not just crop insurance that counts. Health insurance is key to a viable ag economy, with significant impacts on succession and retirement planning.

A sample of 1,062 farmers and ranchers in 10 states, including Washington, were surveyed in 2016-17 as part of a study titled “Health Insurance, Rural Economic Development and Agriculture” by HIREDnAg. Seventy-three percent of farmers reported that health insurance is an important or very important risk management strategy.

The HIREDnAg research team included university extension faculty and staff across the nation, led by Shoshanah Inwood, Department of Community Development and Applied Economics at the University of Vermont. “We had farmers on phone interviews thanking us for finally asking the questions,” said Inwood. “They are highly cognizant of how important health insurance and their health is to their operation.” See more


West meets East in combine seat

October 2017
By Trista Crossley


Learning about wheat harvest in a classroom is much different than experiencing it from the field. Just ask Chris Cocklin-Ray, a fifth-grade teacher from Mercer Island, Wash.

Cocklin-Ray and her husband, Tom, spent part of their Labor Day weekend in Eastern Washington, riding shotgun with Washington Association of Wheat Growers’ Past President Kevin Klein as he harvested spring wheat at his family’s farm in Edwall. Cocklin-Ray’s classroom has been participating in the Franklin Conservation District’s popular Wheat Week program in which educators use a series of lessons to teach fourth- and fifth-graders about water, soil, watersheds, energy and wheat. Every year, the program reaches more than 25,000 students, many of them on the west side of the state. Wheat Week is primarily funded by the Washington Grain Commission. See more


SAFETY FIRST

Understanding the rules and regulations governing utility vehicles on the farm

October 2017
By Trista Crossley


These days, all terrain vehicles (ATVs) and utility task vehicles (UTVs), including rangers and other side-by-side vehicles, are as common on farms as tractors are. They can also be just as dangerous.

According to the Washington State Department of Labor and Industry (L&I), there have been five Washington agricultural fatalities involving ATVs and UTVs since 2008. Jesus Valdovinos, an L&I safety and health specialist in Moses Lake, said the use of these types of vehicles has increased as the cost of doing business has gone up since they are often cheaper to purchase and maintain than a pickup truck. While most of the rules and regulations governing the use of ATVs and UTVs are common sense, there is one over-riding principle when it comes to how L&I investigates and issues citations in industrial accidents: what does the manufacturer recommend in the operator’s manual? See more


2017's harvest in photos

Harvest 2017 is in the books, but while it was happening, Wheat Life staff were out and about taking pictures. We featured some pictures in our October 2017 issue, but here's some of the ones we couldn't fit in the magazine.



See more photos from the 2017 harvest in Eastern Washington.


Little indication of a falling numbers repeat in 2017

August/September 2017
By Trista Crossley


Update: With harvest more than halfway over—and completely done in the southern part of Eastern Washington—there have been no reports of widespread low falling numbers, and many elevators have suspended testing for the quality problem.

As the 2017 Washington wheat harvest hits its stride this month, there will be more than a few anxious moments as the industry waits to see if bad luck is going to strike twice.

Last year’s wheat harvest was notable not only for its near-record size, but for being plagued by low falling numbers that hit more than 40 percent of tested wheat and cost Pacific Northwest wheat growers more than $30 million in discounts. The main culprit was likely multiple, large temperature fluctuations in June. Those sudden swings started an enzymatic process called late maturity alpha-amylase (LMA), which causes starch degradation. Most overseas buyers will only accept wheat with a falling number score of 300 or higher. That number represents the amount of time it takes a plunger to drop through a flour/water slurry. Some of the problems with low falling number were also caused by rains in July triggering preharvest sprouting, the initiation of germination in mature grain that hasn’t been harvested yet. See more