The Rise of HRWW and Gophers

By John Mattingly

Temperatures in the Valley have been warm this season, and modeling shows spring arriving two to three weeks early this year. The notion that the weather and climate have a timetable may be a prime example of hubris, but there clearly are signals in global weather that are changing, and whether they are human-caused or cyclical, or a combination of both, does not change the needs of adaptation.

In the Valley, from 1988 until now – the period in which I farmed in the Valley – a couple of changes correlate to a longer growing season. Acknowledging that correlation is not causation, it is true that from roughly 1995 to present, winter wheat, aka HRWW for hard red winter wheat, and winter rye have become a regular crop in the Valley, when prior to that time, winter wheat was not thought to be viable because of the cold temperatures and late spring frosts. If the wheat crown is frozen for long periods it dehydrates and dies, and if the crown makes the winter, it will head out and a frost in late May or early June will cause a lot of blanks in the wheat head.

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