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This article in AJ

  1. Vol. 100 No. Supplement_3, p. S-166-S-182
    unlockOPEN ACCESS
    Received: Jan 16, 2007

    * Corresponding author(s): schillw@wsu.edu
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Then and Now: 125 Years of Dryland Wheat Farming in the Inland Pacific Northwest

  1. William F. Schillinger *a and
  2. Robert I. Papendickb
  1. a Dep. of Crop and Soil Sciences, Washington State Univ., Dryland Research Station, P.O. Box B, Lind, WA 99341
    b USDA-ARS (retired), 201 Johnson Hall, Pullman, WA 99164. Mention of product and equipment names does not imply endorsement


This article is a history of dryland wheat ( Triticum aestivum L.) farming in the low-precipitation (<300 mm annual) region on the Columbia Plateau of the Inland Pacific Northwest (PNW) of the United States. Numerous technological advances, environmental problems, and sociological factors influenced wheat farming since its inception in 1880. The wheat-based economy traces back to the pioneers who faced many challenges that included scarcity of water and wood, unprecedented wind erosion, drought, and minimal equipment. Throughout the years, major technological breakthroughs include: (i) horse ( Equus caballus ) farming to crude crawler tractors to the 350+ horse power tractors of today, (ii) transition from sacked grain to bulk grain handling, (iii) nitrogen fertilizer and herbicides, (iv) the rotary rodweeder, and (v) the deep furrow split-packer drill to allow early planting of winter wheat into stored soil water. Cultural practices have evolved from repeated passes with high-soil-disturbance tillage implements to today's conservation tillage management. The 2-yr winter wheat–summer fallow rotation continues as the dominant cropping system as it is less risky and more profitable than alternative systems tested so far. Improved wheat cultivars for deep furrow planting continue to be developed with good emergence, disease resistance, winter hardiness, grain quality, and other values. In the past 125 yr, average farm size has grown from 65 to 1400 ha and wheat grain yield increased from <1.0 to 3.4 Mg ha−1 Since the 1930s, government farm programs have provided unwavering support that, in the last several decades, accounts for about 40% of gross farm income.

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Copyright © 2008. American Society of AgronomyCopyright © 2008 by the American Society of Agronomy