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AgWatch | Farmers continue to battle Bullwinkle’s cousin

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A sign along westbound lanes of I-90 warn of elk crossing the road for 10 miles west of Vantage in this photo from January 2016. Further east, herds continue to create problems for farmers who are seeking some help from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Farmers in Asotin County are dealing with damage from elk that have been moving through the area in groups of 50 and 250 for the past six or seven years, according to a report in Wheat Life Magazine.

The herds damage fences and crops, whether they’re just passing through winter wheat fields or stopping to sample canola and other rotational crops. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife issues two kill permits a year to each landowner, but farmers say the elk don’t scare easy and soon learn to be nocturnal.

The landowners are asking the agency to reexamine how it manages its land with an eye toward enticing the elk to stay close, perhaps by planting canola on the land. Other ideas include building an 8-foot tall along the private property or hiring someone to harass the elk during the winter.

Changes proposed in herbicide use rules

The Washington State Department of Agriculture is seeking proposed changes to some of the complex and confusing rules on restricted-use herbicides. Working with a group that includes representatives from Washington State University and the Washington Association of Wheat Growers, among others, WSDA has developed a list of 10 changes. Some of the changes include nozzle and pressure requirements; a maximum 15 mph wind speed restriction; airplane loading and mixing rules; rules about herbicide-loaded airplanes turning and flying low over cities, towns and sensitive crops and restriction on storage. The official rulemaking proposal will be filed in the fall. To make a comment, go to http://wwrld.us/herbicidecomment

A new pool of workers

WAFLA (formerly known as Washington Farm Labor Association) is recruiting about 100 El Salvadoran and Guatemalan H-2A-visa guest workers to work in Washington orchards this year. According to an April 18 story in Capital Press, this could be the first time workers from those countries have been hired by the labor association. The farm labor group hires about 12,000 workers a year for Washington state, most of those from Mexico. Zirkle Fruit Co. hires an additional 3,000 workers. Most work at pruning, thinning and picking in cherry, apple and pear orchards.

Starched, but flexible

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s research laboratory in Peoria, Illinois, created a starch-based coating for paper and plastic products that, combined with polyvinyl alcohol (PVOH), is more water resistant, more flexible and more biodegradable than PVOH alone. The blend could enhance future production of food packaging, plastic bags and other products. It also could be applied to cotton, as a replacement for synthetic materials like nylon, polyester or acrylic. A patent is in the works.

Going native

Allowing native plants like yarrow, buckwheat and sagebrush, nettle, lupine and wild rose to grow between rows in orchards and vineyards encourages good insects, which means fewer pests, according to Washington State University entomologist David James. He is quoted in the April 15 issue of Good Fruit Grower Magazine about a presentation he made at a March conference in Wenatchee. Beneficial insects are those that prey on pests or help pollinate. The list includes green lacewings, lady beetle and parasitic wasps. His research has not yet found whether native plants harbor diseases. He is working on developing a native seed mixture and field guide for fruit crops.


AgWatch is a collection of agriculture-related news from across the region. If you have an industry-related story idea, call Nevonne McDaniels at 664-7151 or email: mcdaniels@wenatcheeworld.com.

Reach Nevonne McDaniels at 509-664-7151 or .