Thursday, April 29, 2010

New variety, Xerpha, raisings some concerns

The new winter wheat variety, Xerpha, is experiencing some of the vulgarities that Mother Nature can throw at her here in the Pacific Northwest. Various reports from across eastern Washington showed an assortment of responses to the growing conditions created by above average temperatures in February, followed by a couple of weeks of cold weather. Tim Paulitz, USDA ARS plant pathology researcher, noted some brown discoloration, and browning of the subcrown internodes in some fields of Xerpha in the Ritzville/Lind area last week. Additional field experience with this new variety will tell us a more complete story of its suitability for different growing conditions found across eastern Oregon and Washington, until then we will continue to gather information and see what the final outcome is at harvest time.

While some concerns were raised about the discoloration being from intolerance to herbicide applications, feedback from both Dan Ball and Joe Yenish, university weed scientists, is that current research indicates a good level of crop safety if label precautions are followed. More studies are underway and additional information will be available perhaps later this spring.

Xerpha, released in 2008, is adapted to a broad range of production areas and consistently ranks among the top cultivars in all agronomic
categories in the PNW. It was released as a replacement for Madsen and Eltan based on its high grain yield potential, test weight, cold tolerance, and high-temperature adult-plant resistance to local races of stripe rust.

With wheat development still ahead of “normal” we continue to see the potential for impact to our local wheat fields from late spring frosts, but for today we are happy with recent rain showers and the continuing advance of spring. We just keep glancing over our shoulders at the fresh snow each morning on the Blue Mountains, keep our thermal coveralls handy and wait for warmer temperatures to return.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Insect ID class - 4 openings

Recent cancellations have created 4 openings in the Train-the-Trainer Insect Identification Short Courses to be held in Hermiston, Oregon. Call (541)278-5403 or email us ( if you are interested in joining the class! This is a busy time, but skills learned will benefit you for years to come as you make informed decisions about insect pest management saving your operations potentially thousands of dollars.

• Hermiston Agricultural Research & Extension Center, May 3-5, 2010, Hermiston, OR (2 openings)
• Hermiston Agricultural Research & Extension Center, May 6-8, 2010, Hermiston, OR (2 openings)

The 20-hour short course is designed to train University Extension field faculty, Extension Master Gardeners, agency professionals, and crop consultants on identification of insects - both beneficial and pesky bugs.

The training will include many hands-on aspects:
• collecting, mounting, and identifying insects,
• using a stereo microscope, and
• using an insect key.

Training will also include insect management and creation of an educational display. Class enrollment is limited to 20 individuals at each site.
For additional information visit our Insect Id webpage.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Winter grain mite making an appearance

A damaging infestation of winter grain mite (Penthaleus major) was reported in a Timothy grass field at Valleyford, Spokane County, earlier this week (March 29)by Diana Roberts, Washington State University Area Agronomist. She also notes there are reports that infestations are widespread in Kentucky bluegrass fields in Spokane County. Farmers should check their fields without delay as this is the peak season for the pest. Affected areas appear as brown, circular patches in a field.

The mite is best viewed with a hand lens as it is only about 1 mm long. The body appears blue-black, roundish, and with 8 bright, red-orange legs. In 2009, Oregon State University Extension published a bulletin on the mite at

Hosts of the winter grain mite include many crops in the grass family, plus some broadleaved plants. It is seldom an economic problem in wheat, but can be damaging in perennial grasses such as Timothy and orchardgrass. Populations peak in March and April, especially following mild winters. Rain can reduce the mite populations drastically, especially in wheat. However, grass seed crops are more susceptible to prolonged damage.