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Wheat Rx project shows farmers what has a value outside of grain yield on their farms.

Jennifer M. Latzke, Editor

March 18, 2024

2 Min Read
VERSATILITY: There’s value in raising wheat beyond grain yield, Wheat Rx experts say. The crop has a valuable role in the overall cropping system of a farm. Photo courtesy of K-State Research and Extension News Service

Winter wheat acres in Kansas have been steadily declining over the last couple of decades, ceding ground to corn and soybeans.

Yet wheat can be very versatile in the overall cropping system of a farm, according to K-State Extension wheat and forages specialist Romulo Lollato.

Lollato spoke to farmers March 7 and 8 about research insights from the Wheat Rx project, a partnership between Kansas Wheat and K-State Research and Extension.

He said farmers might want to consider wheat’s role beyond just grain production on their farms.

Lollato said producers may consider that its use as a soil cover or as a forage to be grazed can pay its way in a farm’s overall enterprise.

Grazing dual-purpose wheat, for example, may provide smaller grain yields, but if a stocker calf can gain 1.5 to 2.5 pounds per day on that high-quality forage, it may pencil out in some years for wheat farmers to graze.

Keep in mind that cattle have to be removed at the first hollow stem stage, Lollato advised, in order for the wheat plants to be able to produce grain.

Consider as well that wheat in a rotation has been shown to provide agronomic benefits to following crops, Lollato said. Research shows that corn planted after wheat benefits from an average of 1 inch more soil moisture left behind than corn following sorghum, he said.

That strategy has been shown to lead to a yield bump in corn after wheat of about 15 bushels per acre, which is 54% greater than if the corn crop followed sorghum, according to the research.

That yield bump also is there for sorghum following wheat, to the tune of about 10 to 30 bushels per acre more.

There’s a yield gain to be found in soybeans planted after wheat, too. Lollato said a 43-year experiment at Ashland Bottoms shows that soybeans benefit from the wheat residue in a reduced or no-till system. That residue lowers soil temperatures and shades the ground to suppress weeds until the soybean plants can provide their own shade, he said.

Wheat residue also produces an allelopathic effect, where it produces chemicals as it’s breaking down on the surface that inhibits weed seed germination and growth. Having wheat in a rotation also allows farmers to use different control methods to break insect and disease cycles, too, he said.

Lollato said the wheat crop across the state seems to be off to a good start this year, with spots here and there where there may still be some lingering effects from drought.

“For the most part, I think we’re in much better shape than we were in the fall,” he said.

The crop may be a bit earlier than usual, which could cause concern if there’s a late freeze in March or April, he added.

About the Author(s)

Jennifer M. Latzke

Editor, Kansas Farmer

Through all her travels, Jennifer M. Latzke knows that there is no place like Kansas.

Jennifer grew up on her family’s multigenerational registered Angus seedstock ranch and diversified farm just north of Woodbine, Kan., about 30 minutes south of Junction City on the edge of the Kansas Flint Hills. Rock Springs Ranch State 4-H Center was in her family’s backyard.

While at Kansas State University, Jennifer was a member of the Sigma Kappa Sorority and a national officer for the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow. She graduated in May 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications and a minor in animal science. In August 2000 Jennifer started her 20-year agricultural writing career in Dodge City, Kan., on the far southwest corner of the state.

She’s traveled across the U.S. writing on wheat, sorghum, corn, cotton, dairy and beef stories as well as breaking news and policy at the local, state and national levels. Latzke has traveled across Mexico and South America with the U.S. Wheat Associates and toured Vietnam as a member of KARL Class X. She’s traveled to Argentina as one of 10 IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Agricultural Journalism. And she was part of a delegation of AAEA: The Ag Communicators Network members invited to Cuba.

Jennifer’s an award-winning writer, columnist, and podcaster, recognized by the Kansas Professional Communicators, Kansas Press Association, the National Federation of Presswomen, Livestock Publications Council, and AAEA. In 2019, Jennifer reached the pinnacle of achievements, earning the title of “Writer of Merit” from AAEA.

Trips and accolades are lovely, but Jennifer says she is happiest on the road talking to farmers and ranchers and gathering stories and photos to share with readers.

“It’s an honor and a great responsibility to be able to tell someone’s story and bring them recognition for their work on the land,” Jennifer says. “But my role is also evolving to help our more urban neighbors understand the issues our Kansas farmers face in bringing the food and fiber to their store shelves.”

She spends her time gardening, crafting, watching K-State football, and cheering on her nephews and niece in their 4-H projects. She can be found on Twitter at @Latzke.

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