Contact Us I Subscribe I Advertisers

Mackinzie Ledgerwood (5) was helping her dad, Brock Ledgerwood, check on a cow out in the wheat stubble on Ledgerwood Farms in Pomeroy, Wash.
Photo by Brock Ledgerwood







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


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

Ag mets STEM at Almira Elementary School

July 2017
By Trista Crossley

Anybody involved in agriculture knows it is a highly technical field, so it will come as no surprise that the industry is fertile ground for STEM education.

STEM is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in four specific areas—science, technology, engineering and mathematics—and focuses on an interdisciplinary, applied approach. Susan Douglas, the kindergarten through fifth-grade math and science teacher at Almira Elementary School in Almira, Wash., wanted a way to show students how this knowledge could be used in real life. She found the answer just about as close to home as was possible—Douglas and her husband are also wheat farmers.

“I think of all the different things my husband has to do to do his job,” she said, pointing out that to farm successfully, farmers—and the people and industries that support them—draw on a wealth of technical knowledge, most of which is based in STEM. “I can’t think of a more perfect match than agriculture. These students sit in the midst of a constant experiment. Farming is an experiment. Everything is always changing, such as the weather. And then there’s the application. How do we interact with our natural resources to reduce our impact and make things better? Farmers are doing that all the time.” See more

Managing the time, costs of farm labor

May 217
By Trista Crossley

Editor’s note: This topic was presented in both Airway Heights and Walla Walla, Wash. This article covers the workshop in Airway Heights.

The Agricultural Marketing and Management Organization wrapped up its 2017 winter series in February with a workshop on labor management, including wages, overtime laws and worker protection standards.

Paul Neiffer, a principal with CliftonLarsonAllen, kicked off the day by discussing changes in minimum wages and sick leave rules that could affect Washington farmers. In 2017, the Washington minimum wage was set at $11 per hour. By 2020, the minimum wage will have increased to $13.50 per hour. Employees under 16 years of age are to be paid at $9.35 per hour in 2017, increasing to $11.48 per hour in 2020. While there are certain ag positions that are not required to be paid minimum wage, such as temporary harvesters, Neiffer said that due to a shortage of laborers, employers are finding that they have to pay more to attract enough workers. See more

Students join falling numbers discussion

Liberty High School FFA team tackles issue for state competition

May 2017
By Trista Crossley

Still confused about preharvest sprout? Alpha-amylase? The Hagberg-Perten test? Give the Liberty High School FFA Ag Issues team about 14 minutes, and they’ll unscramble falling numbers for you while debating the merits of testing for this quality issue.

The seven members of the ag issues team have been working on their presentation since September, interviewing farmers and industry representatives up and down the grain chain to understand falling numbers, the testing method and what the test results mean. They’ve invested hours of research and attended meetings where falling numbers was being discussed. They’ve also practiced their presentation in front of different audiences, refining their talking points and polishing their delivery. All that work is in preparation for the 87th Washington FFA Convention May 11-13 in Pullman, Wash., where the Liberty FFA group will go head to head with other high school teams during the Agricultural Issues Forum that is part of the convention’s leadership development events. See more


Farmers in Asotin County search for solutions to elk problems

April 2017
By Trista Crossley

For most Eastern Washington wheat farmers, the pests they have to worry about tend to be small, if not microscopic. For farmers in Asotin County, those pests are coming in on four legs, weighing hundreds of pounds, and the options for dealing with them are limited.

Elk aren’t new to the Cloverland and Anatone ridge areas of Asotin County; they’ve been in the Blue Mountains for decades, and farmers occasionally had problems with them, especially in fields near timber. But for the past six or seven years, farmers have had groups numbering in the hundreds moving through their land and fences, trampling plants and eating acres of canola and other rotational crops. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is the state agency that manages the area’s elk herd and works with farmers when the animals cause problems. Growers say most local WDFW employees understand the issue and are trying to work with them, but frustration levels are rising, and the growers feel not enough is being done.

“They (the local WDFW employees) want to help, I think for the most part, but sometimes the system moves pretty slowly. That’s where frustration comes in,” explained Bruce Petty, a wheat farmer whose family has farmed on Cloverland for more than 130 years. “It’s hard to relate to folks that have never had to deal with this situation what a detriment it is. If you had a raccoon or a rat infestation, you’d call an exterminator or get traps and take care of them. In this scenario, we don’t have that option. When it’s your livelihood, it’s hard not to take it personally and get wound up.” See more

WDFW's response to the elk problem in Asotin County

April 2017
By Trista Crossley

While Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) Stephen Pozzanghera acknowledges there are conflicts between elk and landowners in Asotin County, he describes it as a distribution problem, rather than a population problem.

“If you think about the Blue Mountains as an overall ecosystem, I think what you’ll hear from a population standpoint is that we like where the Blue Mountain herd is as a whole. What we have in the Cloverland area is a distribution problem. We know that elk are not scattered across the landscape evenly, so because of landowners in ag businesses and attractive crops close to both the wildlife area and the U.S. Forest Service’s National Forest, we have a distribution problem,” he said, adding that the distribution problem was made worse this winter by significant snow depths that pushed elk onto private land. See more

Rules of the road

March 2017

Editor’s Note: This is only a partial listing of the rules and regulations governing agricultural and commercial vehicles. For more information, readers can search the Washington Administrative Code (WAC) at or contact their local port of entry. The Washington State Patrol has published several brochures related to commercial vehicles and farm:

WSP Ag Rules Brochure
WSP Vehicle Guide
WSP Farm Implement Brochure

With snow-covered fields and most large farming equipment tucked away for the winter, it might seem like a strange time to discuss some of the Washington State Patrol (WSP) transportation guidelines farmers need to be aware of. But before you know it, summer will be here with harvest just around the corner and making sure you and your drivers comply with the rules of the road is one thing you can check off your harvest to-do list early.

We asked Linda Powell, a WSP commercial vehicle enforcement officer for more than 27 years, to answer some questions for Wheat Life. Powell currently oversees the two ports of entry on the west side of the state and is the facilities coordinator for the 53 scales and weigh sites throughout the state. Prior to working for the WSP, she was a commercial vehicle owner/operator for five years. See more