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.