Northwest winter wheat crop already stressed by drought

SPOKANE, Wash.– Weather data and reports from the USDA show that the winter wheat crop in the Northwest will have a big hurdle to overcome in the growing season. The culprit is the lingering drought that led to some of the worst crop yields in decades across the region in 2021.

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The results of the disastrous harvest are still being felt months later. A limited supply of soft white wheat, the primary type of wheat grown in the Inland Northwest, has helped lead to a six-year low for wheat exports from the United States. That’s according to the USDA wheat report for February. The report also states that 71 percent of U.S. winter wheat is being hit by drought in 2022. Drought is one of many factors impacting local farmers, including rising supply costs and unstable global wheat markets thanks to the war in Ukraine.



Source: USDA

Fall Winter Rain 2022

Drought in our region has improved significantly, but most agricultural areas in the region remain in some form of drought. Above-average precipitation this fall was followed up by the driest winter (Dec. – Jan. – Feb.) since 2014.

USDA crop reports for winter wheat in Washington and Idaho show that a significant portion of what’s in the ground right now is being stressed. Only 20 percent of winter wheat in Washington and 40 percent in Idaho are listed in good or excellent condition. Most of the crop is listed as fair, which means that they are experiencing some sort of stress and that there will likely be some crop loss. 20 percent of Washington winter wheat is listed in poor or very poor condition.

2022 Wheat Conditions

Spring rain, March through May, is of course extremely important to both winter wheat and wheat that will be planted during the spring. The U.S. Climate Prediction Center calls for slightly above average odds for a wet spring this year.