Seed Harvest Comes Early in Willamette Valley

Turnip seed harvest is one to two weeks early this year. Photo: Clare Sullivan
Turnip seed harvest is one to two weeks early this year. Photo: Clare Sullivan
Barley yellow dwarf virus is appearing in stressed wheat. Photo: Clare Sullivan
Barley yellow dwarf virus is appearing in stressed wheat. Photo: Clare Sullivan
Warm and dry spring prompted early pollination of crops. Photo: Clare Sullivan
Warm and dry spring prompted early pollination of crops. Photo: Clare Sullivan
OSU Extension's Clare Sullivan monitors the health of field crops in south valley. Photo: Mary Stewart
OSU Extension's Clare Sullivan monitors the health of field crops in south valley. Photo: Mary Stewart
By Mary Stewart, OSU Extension

Warmer than normal temperatures and scant rainfall are affecting the timing and yield of seed harvest in Oregon’s Willamette Valley according to experts with the Oregon State University Extension Service.

“In the south valley, turnip and grass harvest started two weeks early,” said Clare Sullivan, OSU Extension field crops faculty for the south valley. North valley field crops are also about two weeks ahead of the historic harvest date, according to Nicole Anderson, OSU Extension field crops faculty for the north valley.

Typically, farmers move their equipment onto the fields in mid- to late-June to harvest crimson clover, meadowfoam, radish, forage-type tall fescues and many other early maturing seed crops.

“We’ve had a string of drier years, and this is the driest we have seen in a while,” Anderson said.

This year, the warm and dry spring has prompted the seed to mature earlier, moving up the swathing dates and reducing the number of days needed for drying the seeds and stems in the field between swathing and combining.

“There has been only one week between swathing and combining of turnip seed in south valley, which is several days shorter than normal,” said Sullivan.  If the weather cools down, the window of time between swathing and combining will possibly lengthen.

While it is easier to work the fields in the dry weather, the yield per acre of the crop suffers because the seed fill period is shortened and there is less water available for the plant to utilize in this process. “The shorter maturation time gives the seed less time to fill, so they will be lighter,” said Sullivan.

“I expect we will see lower thousand seed weights across the board,” said Anderson.

Currently, OSU research trials are testing the impact of irrigation on yields of red and white clover crops. Similar work has been conducted on the different grass seed species over the years. 

“We continually try to get a better understanding of how much or how little late season soil moisture affects our different seed crops. In a year like this, later-maturing species like perennial ryegrass and red clover will likely be affected the most,” said Anderson. 

About the OSU Extension Service: Created in 1911, the Oregon State University Extension Service provides the public with easy-to-understand, research-based knowledge through workshops, hotlines, about 900 publications, online assistance, videos, and faculty in each of Oregon's 36 counties. It adapts the research for practical, local uses by farmers, ranchers, foresters, families, gardeners, youths, seniors and coastal residents. Its programs include 4-H and Master Gardeners.
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