Questioning the Right Date: Collaborating to influence the best RMA Wheat planting date change

Thresher Seed Manager Brett Wilken has led the charge to help get the fall planting date for wheat moved back in the interest of our producers. Wilken started the process back in July by requesting the Idaho Wheat Commission look into extending the fall-planted wheat insurance cutoff dates in Idaho.

A combination of climate factors affect fall-planted wheat and other crops in diverse ways. Barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV) is one disease that is beginning to thrive in fall-planted winter wheat because of the later arrival of cooler weather. As our scientific advisers have shown, BYDV reduces yields and quality of the crop.

The Thresher team believed the company should take a proactive stance and not ignore the problem. Wilken had asked about changing the winter wheat cutoff dates in past years because of the local demand for hard red winter wheat (HRW) by important customers. It is preferred to plant HRW following potato harvest because potato fields need the most fertile ground and will generally get a better protein level when planted earlier than when they follow other crops. Wilken was told that changing the date would very difficult, but that did not deter him.

Currently the insurance cutoff date for Bingham County is October 15; however, the Thresher team has seen producers plant successfully until November 1 for more than a decade. With our changing climate and disease threat, planting too early appears to be a larger insurance/farm risk than planting late or after the current cutoff date and not being covered under federal crop insurance.

Now with the recent emergences of BYDV, Thresher recommends farmers delay planting at least 2 weeks confirmed by research that shows it is better to plant after October 1. Logistically, the Thresher team wondered, how an average or large farm would plant winter wheat if they are only given 2 weeks, especially considering that most farmers in our area are also harvesting potatoes in that same time frame.

When producers communicated to Thresher managers that they were going to plant as they always have and hope insurance will cover them, Wilken recognized this was not a good scenario for anyone: the Idaho Wheat Commission, input retailers, Thresher, or our downstream customers.

“Working with the 200 Bushel Club, Thresher strives to help improve wheat yields through best practices and newest technology to make sure wheat stays as a viable lead crop in Eastern Idaho,” said Wilken. “Optimal planting dates remain a critical part of the yield equation and they needed to be adjusted to provide producers the best scenario for success with winter wheat.”

Over the ensuing weeks, members of the 200 Bushel Club, Idaho Wheat Commission, Barley Commission and Idaho Grain Producers Association (IGPA) responded agreeing that the date change was needed. Wilken scheduled a conference call with interested parties and discussed the best path for moving forward despite being told that there was no way to get the date change implemented for planting in the fall of 2016. Stacey Satterlee with IGPA took the lead on pushing the request through and contacted RMA about the date change. IGPA included the fall planting date cutoff discussion at the district meetings held throughout the state in October to gather feedback from their grower base. Positive input from these meetings has helped push the change closer to realization.

The RMA internal deadline to initiate the change is at the end of March, and the team worked to finalize the request at the IGPA board meeting in October so it could be shared and considered at Tri-State Grain Growers Convention in November. Thresher will strive to keep producers up-to-date on the final resolution next year.