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Wheat & Small Grains Timely Topics

National Survey Shows Cover Crops Improve Wheat Yields

Wheat field
A 2017 USDA SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) national survey of farmers showed that cover crops boosted subsequent wheat yields by 1.9 bushels/acre (2.8%). Farmers also reported using cover crops to aid in weed management, especially where herbicide resistance was a problem. While cover cropping has been a trendy discussion topic in agriculture in… » More ...

USDA September 1 Stocks Estimate Suggests Flat Prices Through 2017: Quick Market Update

USDA released their September 1 grain stocks estimates on Friday, September 29, 2017.  For wheat, this represents the inventory being carried into the second quarter of the marketing year (the wheat marketing year goes from June 1 through the following May 31).  In recent years, the second quarter wheat inventory has been a pretty reliable… » More ...

WSU Offers First Two-Day Workshop on “Unmanned Aerial Systems in Agriculture”

Drone in flight via two men with remote control.
In the past few years, unmanned aerial systems (UAS) or drones have fascinated growers, crop service providers, and researchers alike with versatile imaging and non-imaging application capabilities. The Agribusiness industry is trying to keep up with rapid developments in this sector. As stakeholders are exploring the suitability of the drones in agricultural production management, the… » More ...

Why It Is Important To Calibrate Your Seed Drills

Some producers across the state are in the middle of harvest while others have sent the last grain truck to the elevator and are getting geared up for seeding. An important question to ask your self is this: can I set the notches on the drill to a seed index of 45 and not look back? Even with a new drill, the answer should be “No”. Everyone has their preferred seed drill whether it is an old John Deere HZ drill or one of the new air seeders. No matter the type of seed drill used, one should always calibrate to ensure proper seeding rates. If too much seed is going out, one could be wasting dollars. Also, your yields will likely suffer if plants are competing against each other, so, after you have chosen your variety, make sure to calibrate your drill. If you plant too little seed, your fields won’t produce to its full potential. You’ll have more weed pressure and disappointing yields. Because drills meter by volume and seed is planted by weight, the only way to be sure you’re seeding at the right rate is to calibrate your drill.

Make sure to check out our Seeding Rate Converter that can help with the calibration process.

The YouTube video titled “Seed Drill Calibration” demonstrates a step-by-step process for calibrating a seed drill

Here is a PDF titled “Ready. Set. Seed” was presented at the 2014 Direct and Oilseed Cropping Systems Conference in regards to planting canola. 


Dale Whaley, Regional Extension Specialist in Integrated Weed Management and AgricultureFor questions or comments, contact Dale Whaley by phone at (509) 745-8531 or by email at

Western Wheat Workers Falling Number Update

  1. Fortunately in 2017, nature dealt the region some kindness and the widespread low falling numbers (FNs) of 2016 were a rare event. Economic losses to the grain industry in 2016 alone exceeded $30 million and likely approached $140 million in total after all export and seed industry costs were totaled. In response, grain industry representatives, including wheat commissioners, growers, millers, bakers, exporters, scientists, and extension personnel met at a Falling Numbers Summit in Spokane on Feb. 16, 2017 to share current knowledge, determine where more knowledge is needed, and develop priorities for action. An initial report of progress was shared on May 31, 2017, at the Western Wheat Workers meeting in Corvallis OR.

The two causes of low FNs in wheat grain are: 1) preharvest sprouting or germination on the mother plant due to rain before harvest, and 2) late maturity alpha-amylase (LMA) due to heat or cold shock during grain development. Wheat grain must meet a minimum of 300 seconds in the FN test in order to be considered of good quality. Although low FN was rarer in 2017 than 2016, low FNs have cost western farmers millions of dollars since 2011 and the problem remains a major concern. At the Falling Numbers Summit, the work was divided into five areas:

1. Improve the Hagberg-Perten Falling Number (FN) test
2. Examine alternatives to the FN test.
3. Improve preharvest sprouting resistance.
4. Breed for late maturity alpha amylase resistance.
5. Improve Communication.

Drs. Camille Steber, Craig Morris, Alecia Kiszonas and Kim Garland Campbell, all with the USDA-ARS in Pullman, prepared a written progress report based on the information presented in May titled, “Falling Number Update, Western Wheat Workers, Corvallis OR, May 31, 2017“. Much testing has been conducted this summer, so another progress report is expected in November.

Additional information on low FNs can be found on the Grain Quality Resources page.


For questions or comments, contact Kim Garland Campbell by email at

Washington State University