New online decision tools aid wheat, barley growers

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Unsure of what wheat variety to plant this year? There’s a tool for that. Need help measuring the nitrogen levels in your field, before or after harvest? There’s a tool for that too, thanks to Washington State University.

The dynamic online tools help growers make informed decisions based on WSU research. They can be found on the WSU Extension Small Grains website,, an informational site for wheat and barley growers in eastern Washington.

Variety selection, fertilizer needs

The WSU Extension Small Grains Team has developed several tools hosted on the website, including the Variety Selection Tool, which incorporates data collected every year by the WSU Extension Cereal Variety Testing Program.

This tool helps growers determine which class of wheat or barley is best to plant based on the precipitation zone where they farm. To use the online tool, a grower inputs some basic information and the tool generates a list of potential wheat varieties and their characteristics, including yield performance, disease ratings, test weight and more.

The small grains team also developed two fertilizer application tools: the Dryland Wheat Nitrogen Fertilizer Calculator and the Post-Harvest Nitrogen Efficiency Calculator. With the first, data collected on a grower’s field, such as cropping system and soil organic matter content, is used to estimate how much nitrogen fertilizer is needed.

The post-harvest calculator uses similar data to evaluate the efficiency of nitrogen fertilizer applied prior to harvest. These calculators run on research results published by WSU Extension in the “Eastern Washington Nutrient Management Guide” by Richard Koenig.

Pest management, weather data, more

The small grains website is part of a larger project through WSU Extension to provide outreach and education for Washington wheat and barley growers.

In addition to the dynamic decision tools, the site features current wheat market prices; information on insect, weed and disease management; wheat variety testing data; soil and water management techniques and symptom identification tools; weather data from WSU AgWeatherNet; and information on organic farming.

The small grains team is also developing further content and dynamic tools based on user feedback.

WSU matches gift to fund projects

The website and associated projects are funded by a $50,000 grant from the Washington Grain Commission, a self-governing agency that enhances the profitability of Washington wheat and barley growers. WSU Extension matched the grant, giving the project a start-up budget of $100,000.

The small grains team is led by Drew Lyon, the Endowed Chair in Small Grains Extension and Research at WSU, and includes WSU Extension specialists and county educators throughout eastern Washington.

In addition to the website, the team has plans for outreach events, including a crop diagnostic clinic in the summer and an in-depth “Wheat Academy” at the end of 2014. For more information, visit the Small Grains website at

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