Despite the fact wheat yields were down substantially in the Willamette Valley and in areas of Eastern Oregon, for the most part, Oregon wheat growers weathered this summer’s drought in reasonable fashion, according to the state’s top cereal agronomist.
“I think overall things turned out OK, even given the dry weather that we had,” said Oregon State University Extension Cereals Specialist Mike Flowers. “For many people, we had more average yields and better test weight than what we had feared going into harvest.”
Looking across the state, Flowers said growers in Wasco and Sherman counties and in the Pendleton area were able to pull in average crops.
“Then, going up into the Walla Walla Valley, they caught some really timely rains,” Flowers said. “So even though they had a lower than average rainfall, when they did get the rain, it came at the right time. I would say they also cut close to an average crop.”
Then there were the down areas.
In the Willamette Valley, which accounted for about 100,000 of the state’s 900,000 wheat acres in 2015, yields were down about 20 percent, Flowers said.
“For winter wheat, most of the guys in the valley are looking for somewhere in that 120 to 130 (bushel-an-acre) range. I would say on average that this year we were probably closer to somewhere between 100 and 110,” Flowers said.
Yields in the drier areas of the east side apparently took even bigger hits.
“And as you get into the drier areas — Morrow, the western side of Umatilla — those guys are the ones that really got hurt,” Flowers said. He estimated that their yields were down between 40 and 50 percent and, in some cases, even more.
“When you only get 10 inches (of rain a year) and you knock 3 inches off of that, it makes a big difference,” he said.
Protein levels also fluctuated across the state, Flowers said, but, in general, stayed low.
“While yes, we do have areas that had high protein, we had large areas that had normal protein levels,” Flowers said. “I don’t think we are in that bad of shape as far as protein goes, compared to where we worried we would be.”
In soft white wheat, growers like protein levels of between 8.5 to 10 percent, Flowers said. Anything over 10 generally will need to be blended.
Looking forward, Flowers said the biggest need now for Oregon wheat is rain.
“Let’s just hope that we get some of this rain they are calling for,” he said on Aug. 26. “This is the second year that we are going into a dry fall, so rain is important.”