Winter wheat production down 33 percent

Winter wheat production is down 33 percent from 2015, according to a news release from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Sciences.

In 2016, Virginia farmers harvested 9.28 million bushels of winter wheat during the summer of 2016, according to data collected by the National Agricultural Statistics Service, a subset of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The yield is estimated at 53 bushels per acre, down 13 bushels per acre from 2015.

Barley production for Virginia is estimated at 804,000 bushels, also down 33 percent from the 2015 total. The crop averaged 67 bushels per acre, down 8 bushels per acre from last year.

Both the wheat and barley yields have not been this low since 2010, according to the release.

Elaine Lidholm is a spokesperson for the Virginia Deparment of agriculture services. She said this year has been a perfect storm for winter wheat growers –  a hot winter, an April freeze and heavy rain early in the summer.

“In a word – weather,” Lidholm said when asked why production is so low. “Every farmer I’ve talked to uses the word challenging. It’s been challenging all year long.”

She said although the rain is needed for crops, it came down so heavily this year that many farmers had to bail out of planting altogether when they couldn’t get equipment into the fields.

“We had so much rain that farmers couldn’t plant,” she said. “Particularly with barley, farmers in some cases had to abandon their fields. They just couldn’t get heavy equipment into the fields and the window of opportunity passed.”

Contact staff writer Jake Zuckerman at 540-465-5137 ext. 152, or