Soft white top crop in Whitman County
Last updated 1/29/2021 at 10:12am
COLFAX — The USDA Farm Service Agency reported the largest planted crop last fall in Whitman County is soft white winter wheat.
About 95% of acreage was reported by Dec. 15, tracking a list of crops and other uses for land.
The largest is soft white winter wheat at 285,664 acres planted.
The second highest number was 116,297 acres in native grass — representing area never planted and containing sagebrush lands, shrub-steppe, and the breaks of the Snake River. Much of this is used for grazing.
“It’s being harvested by a cow rather than a machine,” Program Specialist Dwaine Schettler said.
Another big number is 50,068 acres of fallow – land left to refresh for a year before being planted the next time.
The various types and purposes of the federal Conservation Reserve Program accounted for significant space in the county, totaling 94,513 acres.
CRP began in 1985 in effort to conserve soil from water and wind erosion. In later years, the focus added endangered species.
Specific categories of CRP include filter strips, riparian buffer, wetland, and establishing permanent native grasses on land previously tilled. A top category of CRP in the county last fall was 30,956 acres in establishment of contour grass strips.
Schettler explained the grass strips are put in on usually steep ground, establishing a slope of grass. If the land was not farmable, it would not qualify for the program since a requirement is it was tilled before.
For FSA definitions “native grasses” means never been tilled. “CRP native grasses” means planted native species of grasses.
CRP ground is arranged in 10-year periods with landowners receiving payments designed for them to not to make more money than they would growing a crop on the land.
For other crop numbers, 6,684 acres of alfalfa was planted in Whitman County and 455 acres of fall-seeded canola, 94 acres of winter barley and five acres of chickpeas.
Many of the crops on the list are also planted in the spring. Growers have until July 15 to report the numbers to the FSA.
Another large swath of land planted this fall is 18,770 acres in intermediate wheat, a variety of grass for hay or grazing.
In smaller numbers, 48 acres is claimed by “wildlife food plot.” This means an area with a crop grown to be left for wildlife in the winter. Examples of this in Whitman County may be peas, lentils and triticale – a wheat/rye hybrid.
The land is often part of programs within the federal agency Natural Resources and Conservation Service.
Last fall, 24,662 acres were planted of hard red winter wheat and 204 for hard white winter wheat.
County numbers have not yet been specifically analyzed by the FSA.
“On a state level, I do not see major changes in numbers. It’s pretty stable,” Schettler said.