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Wheat Stands Up

July 29, 2011
By: John Buckner, Farm Journal Executive Editor
wheat yields
Yields were all over the place this year. Drought-stricken Texas and Oklahoma had 20-bu.-per-acre yields while the mid-South reported 70-bu. yields.  

New varieties and demand lend support

Watching for positive grain market trends is like trying to get an old-time compass needle to settle down so you can make a decision to move forward. With better drought-tolerant corn and soybean varieties that compete for wheat acreage, the threat of Fusarium head blight and the fear of Ug99 stem rust entering the U.S., the thought of expanding wheat acres isn’t so appealing. Yet, with weather-related disasters in other wheat-growing areas of the world helping to push wheat prices up to the $8 per bushel level, it can be profit-worthy when compared with corn and soybeans.

If demand remains as strong as expected and the weather cooperates, there’s one easy decision to make to be more profitable: Take advantage of new wheat varietal breeding. Phil Needham, Farm Journal columnist and wheat consultant in Calhoun, Ky., says many wheat farmers are still using tried-and-true varieties instead of new varieties. It’s costing them 5 bu., 10 bu., maybe 15 bu. per acre.

Oklahoma State University (OSU) Extension small grains specialist Jeff Edwards agrees, saying that many farmers in Oklahoma and Kansas are still planting the variety Jagger, which was bred

almost 20 years ago.

"On average, that’s a $50 to $75 per acre loss at $8 a bushel," Edwards says. "It pays to be ‘certified’ rather than ‘safe,’" he adds, noting that the cost of certified seed is more than offset by the increased yields.

New varieties. For Edwards’ area of expertise in Oklahoma and Kansas, he likes Duster, an OSU variety that has outyielded all of the older ones.

In intensive management situations, Ruby Lee, a new OSU variety, is a perfect fit, Edwards says. "It does well in non-intensive settings but really shines when pushing for yield," he adds.

"Garrison is a new OSU variety that can be thought of as a replacement for Endurance [an older variety]," he says. "It fits the same grazing profile as Endurance but has better yield potential and better disease resistance."

For northern Oklahoma, Edwards suggests Billings, which is similar to Ruby Lee in that it shines under intensive production. The Kansas State University variety Everest has yielded well in northeastern Oklahoma, but Edwards does not expect it to move into southwestern Oklahoma or into heavy grazing areas.

"WestBred’s Armour has looked good in my trials and Kansas State’s trials," he adds.

Monsanto Company, which bought the assets of WestBred in 2009, agrees with Edwards’ assessment of Armour, which is a hard red winter wheat with broad adaptation.

"Overall, it is one of the highest-yielding winter wheats on the market in the Central and Southern Plains and over the last three years has been among the top performers in the region," says Sara Miller of Monsanto public affairs.

Monsanto is also excited about WB-Cedar, a WestBred variety release that is a sister line to the white wheat variety Aspen. "The new variety has outstanding yield potential, excellent straw strength and has shown strong tolerance to the new strain of stripe rust," Miller says.

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FEATURED IN: Farm Journal - Seed Guide 2011
RELATED TOPICS: Wheat, Technology, Genetics, Production, Seed

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