Daily News Reports »

David Sparks Ph.d 2017 Wheat
by David Sparks Ph.d, click here for bio

Program: Idaho Ag Today
Date: September 11, 2017

Click on the play button to listen to report.

Download Report: 2017_Wheat.mp3

Idaho’s 2017 wheat harvest is finishing up with dry-land farms combining the last of the spring wheat in Caribou, Bannock and Bingham counties.

“Southwest idaho is 100-percent in,” said Blaine Jacobson of the Idaho Wheat Commission. “Statewide we’re better than 95-percent in. Theres some harvesting being on the dry farms in Eastern Idaho. Caribou County and the Soda Springs are just finished winter wheat and started spring wheat. Farms in Bingham, Bannock and Bonneville counties still have spring wheat out. Up north around Grangeville, they're still harvesting.”


Jacobson says the first hard white wheat was harvested Aug. 1, in Southwest Idaho, thats the earliest harvest date Jacobson remembers.


“It’s been hot and it ripened up the crop. Once the crop started to grow we didn't have the wild swings or excessive moisture at harvest and those are the two primary factors of falling numbers, so no falling numbers this year in Idaho,” said Jacobson. Jacobson says there is no evidence of falling numbers in the state.

“All the numbers are high 300’s even in the low 400’s. I haven’t heard of anywhere in the state with falling numbers, I think we’re all relieved with no reports of falling numbers,” said Jacobson.


Falling number is a test that measures starch damage in wheat that reduces the quality of baked goods and noodles. Farmers were caught off guard in 2016 when roughly 44 percent of soft white wheat samples and 42 percent of club wheat samples tested below 300, the industry standard.

The industry estimates the damage last year cost farmers more than $30 million in lower prices.


Some growers expected the harvest to last through Labor Day, but Jacobson now expects it to be done by the third week of August.

If harvest is done early, farmers will move onto other crops, such as potatoes, sugar beets or alfalfa, or into their other fall work, Jacobson said.


Wheat commissioner Joe Anderson, who farms near Genesee and Lewiston, said he’s crossed the halfway point for his harvest. He started in Lewiston right at the average time, July 20, and expects to begin harvest in Genesee shortly. He anticipates finishing in seven or eight weeks, then may have a brief timeout while waiting for his chickpeas to ripen.

Anderson’s winter wheat yield is 10 bushels above average. His 10-year average is about 85 bushels per acre.


“We got the desirable low protein on our soft white wheat, but our hard red winter is also low-protein, and that’s not so desirable,” he said.

Overall, protein levels are good across the wheat classes, and yields are down a little from last year, Jacobson said. Quality is good.


“There’s not a hint of any falling number issue anywhere in the state,” Jacobson said. “With this hot, dry weather we’ve had, we’re getting falling number scores in the high 300s pretty consistently, from north to south to east Idaho.”


The industry standard to meet the needs of key overseas customers is 300. Farmers receive a reduced price when their wheat falls below 300 in the test, which measures starch damage affecting the quality of baked goods and noodles.


Anderson said his falling numbers are in the 370-400 range.

Jacobson doesn’t think further development of low falling numbers is likely.

“I think we’re beyond the danger point now,” he said. Passing rain showers aren’t a problem, but sustained rain that doesn’t allow wheat heads to dry could lead to sprout damage.


Anderson also reports less insect activity than usual this summer, perhaps due to the wet spring. “I can tell the difference; we haven’t seen near the insect pressure this year,” he said.


Soft white wheat prices range from $4.96 to $5.27 per bushel at Portland. Hard red winter wheat is $4.50 to $4.80 per bushel. Dark northern spring wheat is $7.50 to $9.06 per bushel, depending on the protein content.

“There’s a modest profit opportunity right now,” Anderson said. “Really the last month put some sunshine in the deal for a lot of people, us included. We’ll get closer to $6 Portland, and that’ll work for us.”


High temperatures could pose possible risks for farmers, Jacobson said, including the possibility of combines overheating and starting fires. Ninety- and 100-degree days also can lead to thunderstorms and hail, which can shatter wheat heads, he said.


“Don’t let those things overshadow the quality of the crop,” Jacobson said. “It’s an outstanding year so far.”

Recent Reports from Idaho Ag Today

Click here to see Archived Reports