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Idaho sets record for average barley yield

Barley is harvested in a field near Soda Springs last year. Idaho barley farmers set a record for average yield per acre in 2020.

By Sean Ellis

Idaho Farm Bureau Federation

POCATELLO – Idaho barley farmers set a record for average yield per acre in 2020.

The average yield per acre for barley grown in Idaho was 110 bushels, according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. That beat the previous state record of 107 bushels per acre set in 2016.

“In 2020, we had the perfect combination of good weather and growing conditions to grow exceptional barley,” said Idaho Barley Commission Administrator Laura Wilder.

Those favorable conditions resulted in good quality as well, she added.

“Quality was excellent; we had very few problems around the state,” Wilder said. “The malt houses that received the barley were pleased, the growers were pleased and it was an exceptional year for Idaho barley.”

There are about 4,000 barley farmers in Idaho and Idaho ranks No. 1 in the nation in total barley production. About 70 percent of the barley produced here is malt barley, which is used in the beer-brewing process.

The rest is grown for human food or animal feed.

According to NASS, Idaho farmers produced 55 million bushels of barley off of 500,000 harvested acres last year, which was 33 percent of the nation’s total barley crop.

University of Idaho agricultural economists estimate Idaho barley farmers brought in $274 million in farm-cash receipts last year, ranking barley as Idaho’s No. 5 crop in that category.

Barley farmers around the state reported extremely favorable growing conditions in 2020.

“For barley, we had good soil moisture and the weather was just perfect,” said Gordon Gallup, who farms near Ririe. “It was a good year for … barley and we had good quality and good yields.”

Rupert barley farmer Mike Wilkins said spring started out a little rough with cold and windy conditions but it didn’t get super hot during the summer in his area, which was a big benefit for barley yields and quality, and harvest conditions were also great.

“Our yields were really good … and our quality was really good also,” he said. “We had a really good year.”

“We had bumper yields last year,” said Soda Springs barley farmer Scott Brown. “They weren’t record yields but they were up there among the top several crops we have ever had. We had good growing conditions and just the right amount of moisture. The crop did well all summer long.”

The average yield during 2020 was for irrigated and dryland barley combined and yields in some areas were significantly higher than normal.

Blackfoot farmer Allen Young said yields in his barley fields last year were about 143 bushels per acres, which is about 2 bushels an acre better than they were in 2019, and he had a neighbor who hit 160-180 bushels in some fields.