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Wheat & Small Grains Timely Topics

Wheat’s Contribution to the Washington Economy

The Washington wheat cluster is composed of wheat producers, wheat transportation storage and handling, and wheat processing. Roughly 2.3 million acres of land are put into wheat production annually in Washington. Over the last 15 years, wheat production has averaged about 60 bushels per acre, but there can be significant year-to-year variation. The combination of yield and price volatility results in significant change in the value of Washington wheat production from year to year. In 2014 both wheat yields and prices were down significantly from their 15-year highs. This led to total 2014 production value being at its lowest level in 5 years, coming in at $714.9 million. This is equal to the 15-year average value, but the average is weighed down by much lower values early in the period. Despite the 2014 outcome, wheat continues to be one of the top agricultural products produced in Washington.

Wheat processing in the state has declined, but the degree of decline is difficult to assess. Due to a limited number of firms and the associated data privacy issues that come with that, most Washington processing data is not disclosed. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that 7 flour mills exist in Washington, but only two of those are known to be large commercial facilities. The remaining 5 appear to be smaller operations focusing on local or organic flours.

Total wheat cluster contributions to Washington’s gross state product (GSP) came in at just under $550 million dollars. Wheat production accounted for $461.4 million of the total; transportation, storage, and handling accounted for another $50.4 million; and wheat processing generated an additional $37.5 million. The cluster supports nearly 8,200 jobs in the state with wheat production; wheat transportation, storage, and handling; and wheat processing each accounting for 6,941, 778, and 448 respectively.

A significant portion of the total cluster contributions accrued in non-cluster industries. The value added in Washington’s service sector, other agricultural activities, and wholesale and retail trade were $195.6 million, $119.1 million, and $57.1 million respectively. Of total wheat cluster contributions, 75% were generated in industries not directly involved in wheat production or processing, along with 71% of the employer contributions. As such, Washington’s wheat sector is a fundamental contributor to Washington’s overall economic vitality.

View the Economic Contributions of the Wheat Cluster to the Washington Economy in PDF format. 


For questions, contact Randy Fortenbery at r.fortenbery@wsu.edu or Timothy Nadreau at timothy.nadreau@wsu.edu.

Herbicide Resistance Has Been Around for 60 years

Diversity of Russian Thistle

Glyphosate–resistant Russian-thistle was identified in Washington in 2015. Other weeds resistant to glyphosate have been identified in the state in recent years, including prickly lettuce, horseweed, kochia, and Italian ryegrass. Many people think that herbicide resistance is a recent phenomenon associated with the overuse of glyphosate-resistant crops, but as a recent article released by the Weed Science Society of America states, herbicide-resistant weeds predate glyphosate-resistant crops by 40 years.

The use of glyphosate-resistant crops (there are no glyphosate-resistant wheat varieties) is very limited in the dryland crop production systems of Eastern Washington and yet herbicide-resistant weeds are a growing concern for many Washington wheat farmers. Resistant weeds can evolve whenever a single approach to weed management is used repeatedly, whether that approach is chemical, mechanical, or cultural. A diverse, integrated approach to weed management is the first line of defense against herbicide-resistant weeds.

Washington wheat growers who suspect that they may have developed a weed that is resistant to an herbicide may want to submit a sample to the WSU Resistance Testing Program.


For questions contact Drew Lyon (drew.lyon@wsu.edu or 509-335-2961) or Ian Burke (icburke@wsu.edu or 509-335-2858), who are Weed Scientists at Washington State University in Pullman.

Jasper, WSU’s 100th Released Variety

In 2015, WSU released a new soft white winter wheat cultivar named Jasper, which was the 100th cultivar released from the University.  Unfortunately, in the 2016 WSU Variety Testing trial, Jasper was not included due to a seed error in transferring the seed from the breeding program to the variety testing program.

Table 1. Agronomic characteristics of Jasper compared to check cultivars in WSU Wheat Breeding trials
BU/A HD PH
Jasper 89.5 149 34
Xerpha 80 151 34
Eltan 75 152 35
Bruehl 79 153 36
Puma 82.5 149 36
Otto 85 153 36

As a result, many growers have asked for yield information on this line from the test plots in the breeding program, where the correct seed was planted.  Tables are provided to help summarize the performance of Jasper as compared to other cultivars released from the breeding program.  These lines are also included as check cultivars in my yield trials, and thus provide easy yield comparison.

Table 1 provides information on heading date (HD; days after January 1st to heading) and plant height (PH; measured in inches).  The yield data encompasses all paired location data we have on Jasper across 74 locations and seven years.  Yield of Jasper is significantly higher than all other cultivars when averaged over these locations.

Table 2 provides the data just in locations receiving less than 16” of annual rainfall.  Here there are 49 paired observations for yield comparison.  Jasper again demonstrated higher yield potential than check cultivars.  Data is also presented in Table 2 representing specific locations where we have multiple observations of Jasper across years.  Again, yield potential is higher than check cultivars with the exception of Lind.

 

Table 2. Grain yield potential of Jasper compared to check cultivars in WSU Breeding and Variety testing trials receiving less than 16” of annual rainfall

Davenport (4) Harrington (5) Lind (12) Ritzville (5) Breeding Trial Average (49) Variety Testing Average (34)
Jasper 103 75.8 50 69 73 71
Xerpha 99 73.2 53 64 67 72
Eltan 90 64.4 48 59 63 68
Bruehl 88 69.2 48 58 64.5 65
Puma 92 71 48 67 67 67
Otto 88 70.4 51.5 68 67.5 66

When data is averaged from the <16” WSU Variety Testing trials where Jasper was present (2013-2015, 34 observations), Jasper had a significantly higher yield potential than all checks except Xerpha, which showed no significant difference.  In 2016, Jasper was also on two large scale plantings.  In Ritzville, a large strip trial had Jasper averaging 77 bushels per acre (bu/a), the highest yield of all entries.  Xerpha yielded 61 bu/a, whereas Puma and Otto both yielded 74 bu/a.  At the Wilke Farm in Davenport, Aaron Esser had a field of Jasper and a field of an Otto/Masami blend.  Jasper averaged 99 bu/a, whereas the Otto/Masami blend averaged 91 bu/a.

Average grain yield in bushels per acre over all paired locations in WSU Winter Wheat Breeding Trials in areas with less than 15” annual rainfall.  Variety Testing data is also included, averaging yield data from 2013-2015 in less than 16” rainfall zones.  Individual locations are also presented along with the number of observations analyzed.

Photo courtesy of Paul Porter with Washington Genetics
Photo courtesy of Paul Porter at Washington Genetics
jasper-field-2
Photo courtesy of Aaron Esser
Photo courtesy of Mike Miller with Washington Genetics
Photo courtesy of Marci Miller at Washington Genetics

For questions, contact Arron Carter at ahcarter@wsu.edu or (509) 335-6198.

New Publication Addresses Managing the Risk of Low Falling Numbers

Figure-2-300x191Low Falling Numbers has been a big issue for eastern Washington wheat growers this season. Discounts for grain with falling numbers below 300 are causing serious financial losses for some growers. Falling numbers testing of the Washington State University Cereal Variety Trials are currently underway. Based on variety trial information, the low falling number problem is far more extensive this year than in 2013. In 2013, there were major problems with low falling numbers in seven of 20 variety trial locations.

Thus far in 2016, we are seeing low falling numbers problems in 11 or the 14 locations tested thus far. Of these 11 low falling number locations, four are showing falling numbers below 200 seconds. In order to help growers understand what the Hagberg-Perten Falling Number test is and how to manage the risk of low falling numbers for the future, Camille Steber, Research Molecular Geneticist with the USDA-ARS, authored Managing the Risk of Low Falling Numbers in Wheat, a new WSU Extension publication.


For questions or comments, contact Camille Steber at csteber@wsu.edu or 509-335-2887.

Resources for Understanding Low Falling Numbers

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2016 Washington Wheat Industry Resources for Understanding the Low Falling Number Issue

The following resources were assembled to help growers and wheat industry members understand issues surrounding low falling number in wheat.

Washington Association of Wheat Growers and the Washington Grain Commission

Washington State University and the USDA-ARS

Idaho Wheat Commission

View this page in PDF format.

Washington Association of Wheat Growers Falling Number Update

Falling Number Blues Low falling numbers, which have struck distinct regions of Eastern Washington periodically have shown up once again in the 2016 crop. This season’s outbreak is widespread, but on a random basis. Low falling numbers can be caused by two factors: rain at harvest and Late Maturity Alpha Amylase (LMA) activity. This year,… » More ...

Recent Weather Could Affect Wheat Quality

As wheat harvest gets started in Washington, recent rainfall and cool temperatures have some growers worried about Mother Nature’s fickle ways with their crop.  Rainfall close to harvest can result in preharvest sprouting, which can negatively affect wheat quality.  Dr. Camille Steber, USDA-ARS plant geneticist, explains the potential effects of recent rains on this year’s wheat crop and what growers can do to manage this risk.

Fig. 1. Sponge cakes fall with increasing alpha-amylase from sprouting– image from WWQL, USDA-ARS, Pullman

The Hagberg-Perten Falling Number test is used to measure starch damage due to sprout.  Low FN is used as an indicator that grain contains a high level of alpha-amylase, an enzyme that degrades starch leading to poor end-use quality of wheat products (Figure 1).  Grain with an FN below 300 seconds is typically discounted in the Pacific Northwest.

Wheat that has been rained on is at risk of low FN.  Eastern Washington experienced periods of rainfall July 7 to 12, 2016, just as winter wheat harvest approached.  Chances are, buyers will check FN to protect themselves from sprout damage risk.  Whether or not your grain is likely to have low FN problems depends on the susceptibility of the cultivar you grew, on the local weather, and the timing of the rain relative to maturity date.

Fig. 2. The chances that rain will induce sprouting and low FN increase the longer the wheat “after-ripens” or sits dry on the mother plant after the wheat turns matures (turns yellow). Thus, dormancy and sprouting tolerance are lost as the wheat stands in the field.
Fig. 2. The chances that rain will induce sprouting and low FN increase the longer the wheat “after-ripens” or sits dry on the mother plant after the wheat turns matures (turns yellow). Thus, dormancy and sprouting tolerance are lost as the wheat stands in the field.

Preharvest sprouting is the initiation of grain germination while still on the mother plant.  Germinating seeds degrade starch for use in fueling growth.  Lack of seed dormancy explains 60-80% of genetic sprout susceptibility.  Dormant grains can’t germinate, and so don’t suffer sprout damage in the rain.  Seed dormancy is strongest at maturity, just as the wheat turns from green to yellow.  Dormancy is lost gradually over time as the dry, mature grain “after-ripens” (Figure 2).  Winter wheat that still had some green color is less likely to have a low FN due to sprouting than wheat that was completely yellow and dry when it rained.  Since green grain cannot sprout, spring wheat that was green when it rained should be safe from low FN, as long as there isn’t another ill-timed rain event.

Not all rainstorms induce sprouting.  Seed dormancy is broken by cool, rainy conditions.  So if the temperatures are in the 80s °F when it rains, the wheat is less likely to sprout than if the temperatures are in the 60s.  Low FN is also more likely when there are multiple rainy days in a row, as the wheat stays wet longer.

How do you spot sprouted grain?

Fig. 3. A sprouted grain with a seedling root just poking out of the grain is not obviously germinated, but has low FN/high amylase.
Fig. 3. A sprouted grain with a seedling root just poking out of the grain is not obviously germinated, but has low FN/high amylase.

It takes a lot of rainfall to make a seedling sprout out from a wheat spike (about 3 days of constant rain at 70 degrees).  If you look closely at a mildly sprouted grain, you can sometimes see a small root protruding from the germ-end (Figure 3).  Such grain can have a very low FN (under 200 sec).  As the sprouted grain dries, the root can shrink back into the grain leaving behind a small crack at the embryo end.  Sometimes this cracked end breaks, leaving behind a germ-less grain.  So get out your magnifying glass.

Low FN (200-300 sec) can also be caused by late-maturity alpha-amylase (LMA) induced by heat shock or cold shock during grain maturation.  LMA causes low FN in grain that appears to be sound. We had some big temperature fluctuations this summer, so there may be some lower FN in wheat that saw no rain.  Some LMA-susceptible suspects include SY-Ovation, Bruehl, Jasper, and Alturas.

Plant cultivars with genetic resistance to sprouting and LMA.  We can use past preharvest sprouting events to judge which cultivars have more genetic resistance to sprouting.  For example, there were major sprouting events in Fairfield, Lamont, Pullman, and other locations in 2013.  The FN of all cultivars grown in the WSU Cereal Variety Trial at all locations in 2013 and 2014 can be found on the Project 7599 PNW Falling Number website.  One problem is that many of the highly PHS tolerant cultivars such as Mary and Masami are older cultivars that may not compare well to recent cultivars for yield and disease resistance.  The falling number versus yield tool on the Project 7599 website can help you take both yield and FN into account when choosing a cultivar (http://steberlab.org/project7599data.php#anchor2013Results).  Examples of sprouting-resistant cultivars include Puma, Skiles, Coda, and Bobtail.  Sprouting-susceptible cultivars include Bruehl, Xerpha, AP-Legacy, LWW10-1018, and Bruneau.  Ongoing research will improve sprouting resistant choices.

Harvest wheat quickly after maturity to reduce risk of getting rained on.  Wait for the rained-on wheat to dry well before harvesting to avoid germination in the truck.  Also, avoid harvesting green wheat, as green kernels have higher alpha-amylase (lower FN) than mature grain.  Green kernels can be a problem if you combine wheat that is yellow on the hill with green wheat from the draw.

Avoid mixing likely-sprouted grain with likely-unsprouted grain.  A little bit of alpha-amylase can cause big FN problems.  Mixing equal amounts of FN 200 grain with FN 400 grain will not give you a load at FN 300 sec.  Instead you will end up with something well below 300.  If you have one field that was greenish and another field that was fully yellow when it rained, you might make more money if you keep them separated when you sell.  The same is true if you planted both a sprouting-resistant and susceptible cultivar in separate fields.
Store mildly sprouted grain.  Some research suggests that alpha-amylase levels drop during storage – it could be that UV light or heat degrades the enzyme over time.  If the FN is moderately low (200-300 sec), it might help to store grain for 2 to 3 months to see if the FN rises.  If the FN is very low, storing the grain won’t reverse starch damage that has already occurred.  So storing the grain may not greatly improve its value.

If you want to read more about the Falling Number test and sprout damage, see:
“Preventing those Falling Numbers Blues” – Wheat Life  (http://steberlab.org/pubs/2013c.pdf)
“Falling Numbers: research strategies to stay out of the red.” – Wheat Life (http://steberlab.org/pubs/2014d.pdf)
2013 and 2014 Falling Number Data (http://steberlab.org/project7599data.php#anchor2014Results)


Camille Steber is a molecular geneticist with the USDA-ARS in Pullman, WA. For questions/comments, contact her at csteber@wsu.edu or 509-335-2887.

Organic Case Studies Publication

The latest bulletin published by the Small Grains Team is PNW683 – Organic Small Grain Production in the Pacific Northwest: A Collection of Case Studies. The publication includes 12 case studies of organic grain farms that encompass three precipitation zones of the rainfed Inland Northwest, plus farms using full- and supplemental irrigation.

The farmers interviewed for the case studies discussed their philosophy for organic farming, methods of transition to organic production, crop rotation, soil fertility, seedbed preparation, plus weed and pest management. They also discussed marketing methods and techniques that had worked well (or not) on their farms. In addition, they offered tidbits of advice for farmers considering organic production.

As the case studies are comprised of individual’s experiences and opinions, they do not constitute formal recommendations by WSU Extension. Each case study does include complementary and pertinent information on the National Organic Rules and Certification.

PNW683 is available, free of charge. Go to the Organic Production button on the left side of the page, then click on Case Studies. The online version of the document includes hyperlinks to other sections or websites. These links are lost in the printed version.


If you encounter any problems with these links or when downloading files, please contact Blythe Howell at blythe.howell@wsu.edu as this publication is unique in its size and complexity.

The case studies were authored by Louise Lorent, Associate in Research; Diana Roberts, PhD; and Ian Burke, PhD. Funds were provided by a grant from OREI (Organic Research and Extension Initiative) and a Hatch Project.

For questions regarding the case studies, contact Diana Roberts at robertsd@wsu.edu.

Soil Acidification Video Series

Awareness of soil acidification has been growing in the inland Pacific Northwest (iPNW). Farmers, Researchers, and Industry Professionals have been finding that this emerging regional issue has generated more questions than answers. Soil acidification can affect crops and nutrient availability, as well as pathogens and herbicide use. Growers faced with low pH soil can be challenged by the question of what to do about it.

WSU Extension has released a series of three short videos featuring growers and local researchers explaining the challenges, symptoms, causes, and implications for farm management that are associated with soil pH decline.


“Soil Acidity- What it looks like” this video focuses on the symptomology of crops being affected by low soil pH, and other factors that may confound identification of acidic soil.


“Soil Acidity- How it happens” this video focuses on why the Palouse region is experiencing a decline in soil pH, and how it is often seen distributed through the landscape and soil profile.


“Soil Acidity- managing it on the farm” this video discusses how low pH soil can affect management decisions on the farm, and ways of mitigating the impact of soil acidity on crops.


For questions contact Carol McFarland at carol.mcfarland@wsu.edu.

Washington State University