Growing Season

Soft white winter wheat, which is planted in the fall, is the dominant class grown in Eastern Washington.

Exactly when the crop is planted depends on the moisture condition of the soil. In years of adequate moisture, seeding is largely complete in September. Under drought conditions, farmers may wait into October or even early November to plant. Each week of delay after September will impact harvest yields.
In summer fallow areas below 14 inches of precipitation, farmers use planters, known as drills, that form deep furrows in order to place the seed into moisture. Seeds need strong coleoptiles (the sheath that protects the first shoot that emerges from the ground) to force through five or more inches of soil. Rain at the wrong time leads to soil crusting, which prevents the coleoptile from emerging, and the farmer must reseed again. It is not unknown for a farmer to seed the same field three times due to crusting events.
Young wheat seedlings growing on a field in autumn. Young green wheat growing in soil. Agricultural proces. Close up on sprouting rye agriculture on a field.
Winter wheat under the snow

Winter wheat hunkers down in the cold, but its metabolic activity never ceases.

Plants can die from extreme cold, called winter kill. Such events occur during periods without snow cover when temperatures plunge into the single digits with accompanying wind. Snow cover protects wheat even in the coldest conditions, but in areas of the state long lasting snow cover can lead to snow mold, a disease some wheat breeders have developed resistance against in their varieties.

As spring warms up, the winter wheat begins actively growing.

Depending on the year, this can happen as early as February. Farmers spray their fields for weeds in the fall and again during the spring and scout for other diseases that can affect yield and quality.
Spring wheat is planted in March, April or May depending on moisture conditions in the soil. Getting into the field too early can result in tractors and planters stuck up to their axles in mud. Spring wheat is used as a rotation crop. Because of its shorter growing season, it rarely yields as much as winter wheat.
wheat growing season
The driest and hottest areas of the state begin harvest in July.

Farmers around Connell, Washington traditionally are the first to start harvest on the day after the Fourth of July. Harvest elsewhere waits to begin until August. Some spring wheat fields are being harvested in September.

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