What Killed 40,000 Acres of Oregon Wheat Last November?

January 19th, 2011

This is from, Capital Press, December 02, 2010: Investigators Baffled as Wheat Fields Wither:

The Oregon Department of Agriculture and Oregon State University are investigating the yellowing of upward of 40,000 acres of wheat in Umatilla and Morrow counties.

So far, the cause is a mystery, and researchers do not know if the problems in the two counties are related.

In early November, Umatilla County growers noticed wheat fields turning yellow and dying, OSU Extension soil scientist Don Wysocki said.

Sixteen fields from three to 10 miles northwest of Pendleton were affected, Wysocki said. They are “more or less but not completely contiguous,” he said. Not every field in the area was affected.

The area was predominately planted to soft white Clearfield variety ORCF-102, but other varieties were also affected, Wysocki said.

“There’s probably more than one thing going on in these particular fields, like in any field,” he said.

OSU Morrow County Extension associate professor Larry Lutcher said 30,000 to 40,000 acres of wheat in his county have plants with yellow or purple tips. The discoloration spreads inward and downward on the leaf. In some cases, plants are completely desiccated and will not recover.

The symptoms have been observed in many fields in the county, Lutcher said, but do not appear tied to any particular location.

“Most of the symptoms in Morrow County are unlike anything I have ever seen,” Lutcher said.

Lutcher said he doesn’t believe the problem will spread to other fields, but he can’t be certain.

“This does appear to be a new problem — a problem that no one seems to have experience with,” he said.

The last mention that I was able to find about this situation was from Capital Press, January 6, 2011: Growers Seek Update on Withered Wheat:

Wysocki said there is still debate about the cause, although samples tested positive for some herbicides. Based on some of the patterns in the fields, he said there was probably some chemical trespass issues.

Wysocki declined to comment on which chemicals may have drifted. That depends on the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s investigation, he said.

In a letter to growers Dec. 28, Oregon Agriculture Director Katy Coba said the department has initiated 19 pesticide use follow-up investigations to determine compliance with the Oregon Pesticide Control Law. The department collected about 70 plant tissue samples for testing in its regulatory lab, specifically for glyphosate residues.

Because the department routinely uses a minimum detectable level of 0.01 parts per million, testing wheat foliage for glyphosate residue is challenging. The department is consulting with glyphosate manufacturer Monsanto and other state regulatory laboratories, Coba said in the letter. She expects to have analytical results by Jan. 21.

The department is also reviewing application records from 51 commercial pesticide operators that worked in the area between Oct. 1 and 30.

The department is planning a follow-up status conference call and meeting the week of Jan. 24.

Other items on the Morrow County meeting agenda include ammonia volatilization in the field, manure applications on dryland wheat and the possible combination of Oregon Wheat Growers League and Oregon Wheat Commission administrative positions.

Lutcher said his discussion will be limited to what he knows at the time.

“This spring, we will need to keep a close eye on the crop,” he said.

Possibly Related: Monsanto’s Roundup Triggers Over 40 Plant Diseases and Endangers Human and Animal Health [Sent in by Matt]

Posted in Food | Top Of Page

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.