Brook Brouwer, Louisa Winkler, and Brigid Meints

Washington State University Mt. Vernon

Fig. 1. Harvesting winter organic barley plots adjacent to spring trials at WSU Mount Vernon, July 9, 2014.

Photo B. Brouwer.

Variety testing nurseries for wheat, barley and oats were established in western Washington when plant breeding professor Dr. Stephen Jones arrived to take on the directorship of the WSU Mount Vernon Research and Extension Center in 2009.  The program aims to build the economic value of grain crops in the region.  Field trials are carried out every year, in multiple locations where possible, to find varieties which are high-yielding and disease resistant.  Where there is potential to sell crops into value-added regional markets such as local food and craft malting, tests are made to identify varieties with the best qualities for those end-uses.


Spring and winter barley is being evaluated to select high yielding varieties suitable for locally malted and brewed beer, whole grain food products, and animal feed rations.  In addition to screening commercially available varieties, we are using classical breeding techniques to develop new varieties specifically for reduced-input production in western Washington. We also collaborate with Oregon State University, University of California, Davis, and other Washington State University Breeders to evaluate hundreds of breeding lines each year. Malting quality evaluation is underway in collaboration with North Dakota State University.  The variety testing results presented here are from three to four years of continuous testing under organic and conventional management at WSU Mount Vernon as well as on-farm trials in Whatcom and Island counties.

Results can be found here.


Oat testing is focused on oats for milling and as a high-nutrition poultry feed.  Although oats are rarely seen in western Washington cropping systems today, they were historically very successful in the region and are well-adapted for a high-rainfall climate.  The oat variety test results presented here are from two nurseries grown in Whatcom and three other western Washington counties: (1) 50 hulled varieties; (2) 4 hulless varieties. In the hulled oat nursery, yield, field characteristics and seed quality characteristics are tested to see which varieties can consistently meet the standards of the grower and the milling industry.  In the hulless oat nursery, nutritional quality results are also reported alongside field and yield characteristics.  Research is being carried out on oats as a poultry feed, and the high values we have observed for grain oil and grain protein are very encouraging.  Both oat nurseries will be continued with some changes next year.

Results can be found here.



Dry beans are being trialed at WSU Mount Vernon as a legume rotation crop with minimal processing requirements, high nutritional value, and local marketing opportunities such as school kitchens and direct-to-consumer sales.  These advantages make dry beans a strong candidate to replace peas, lost as the legume component of regional rotations when local canneries closed down (pea acreage in the region is zero today, but was 30,000 acres as recently as 1968).  Building on the work of Dr. Carol Miles at WSU Mount Vernon, a wide range of commercially available dry bean varieties and breeding lines is being screened in order to find lines adapted to western Washington growing conditions. Breeding programs at University of California Davis, Michigan State University, North Dakota State University, and USDA Prosser all contributed material.  Early maturing varieties were specifically requested from within major commodity market classes.  In addition, commercially available varieties and locally grown heirlooms are included.  Results are presented for a total of 60 entries.

Results can be found here.


For additional information please contact Steve Lyon (

For other variety testing results, please visit


Please note, the information in these documents is provided for educational purposes only.  References to commercial products or trade names do not imply an endorsement by Washington State University.




Fig. 2. Close up on oats.

Photo L. Winkler.