Rexburg spud grower wins wheat contest

Courtesy of Terry Wilcox
Terry Wilcox stands on the edge of a potato field on his family's farm on the Rexburg bench. Wilcox recently won second place in the National Wheat Yield Contest, growing 143.91 bushels per acre with irrigated spring wheat, a crop he grows in rotation with his potatoes.

REXBURG — A potato farmer who grows wheat as part of his crop rotation has won national honors for wheat production for the second year in a row.

Terry Wilcox, of Keith Wilcox and Sons, a potato producer and shipper, was named a second-place winner Dec. 6 in the 2017 National Wheat Foundation’s National Wheat Yield Contest.

The contest recognizes the overall high-yield winner in two competition categories: winter wheat and spring wheat, and two subcategories: dryland and irrigated. He is credited with producing 143.91 bushels per acre with irrigated spring wheat.

“We actually did better the year previous,” Wilcox said. “We got 179.78 bushels per acre in 2016 and this year we got 35 bushels per acre less and still finished in the same spot.”

The contest is gauged upon the percentage a farmer produces above the county average.

“The national winner actually had less bushels per acres than we did with 129 bushels per acre, but their percentage above their county average was higher.”

The field that rated in the competition is on the Rexburg bench, east and south of Rexburg.

“They had a deep well on this ground when we bought it in the 1960s,” he said. “We started out with hand lines on it, but now it’s pivot irrigation.”

He has used WestBred seed for the past eight or nine years.

“We go with what we think will work for us,” he said.

Spring wheat works better than fall wheat for Wilcox due to erosion in the spring on the bench.

“Flat fields do better for fall wheat,” he said.

He raises hard white and hard red varieties of wheat that are locally milled and are often used for bread flour.

Before he plants, soil tests help determine his plant food needs.

“We put down sulfur, potash, nitrogen and whatever else it says we need,” Wilcox said. “We have a high soil pH of about 7 to 8 so the sulfur helps loosen things up and releases the micronutrients we need. We put on fertilizer with the seed and run some nitrogen with water.”

Wheat is part of his crop rotation of two years grain and one year potatoes.

“The first year after spuds, we raise wheat and the second year it’s either wheat or barley,” he said.

Floyd Wilcox and his three sons, Keith, Leroy, and David, started Floyd Wilcox & Sons, a potato-packing and shipping business, in a 7,000 square foot building in Thornton in 1948. The next generation of Wilcox brothers, Terry, Lynn and Ron, have located Wilcox Fresh in a 98,000-square-foot facility in Rexburg and ship throughout North America. The family farm has grown from 200 acres to 11,000 acres.

Other Idaho winners include Wilcox’s nephew, Dallin Wilcox, with 142.14 bushels per acre; Doug Stout, of Genesee; Rick Pearson, of Buhl; and Brad Parks, of Jefferson County, with Mud Lake Farms.

An entry fee of $100, being a member in good standing of a recognized state wheat grower association and proof of production are required to enter the contest. A total of 287 growers from 28 states competed. Winners and a guest receive a trip to the 2018 Commodity Classic in Anaheim, Calif., Feb. 27 to March 1. Sponsors for the 2017 National Yield Contest are BASF, Croplan/Winfield, Indigo Ag, John Deere, McGregor, Monsanto and Syngenta.

“I would like to see more people enter this contest,” Wilcox said.