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Optimism and New Varieties Abound at WestBred Field Day

Shocker is a crowd favorite; Armor set to be released. By Rhonda McCurry

By Rhonda McCurry

A promising sample of wheat varieties greeted the 30-plus crowd of growers, salesmen and seed company representatives at the WestBred, LLC/AGSECO Field Day, May 21 in Haven.

Sixteen varieties were featured, including a new release called Armor, and the crowd favorite, Shocker. Sid Perry, wheat breeder for WestBred, discussed each variety then toured the group through production fields. The field day was a far cry from 2007, when the event had to be cancelled due to an Easter-time freeze.

"The freeze melted everything to the ground and we had to scramble to show off our varieties," Perry says. "Looking at the demo line today, we have commercial products as well as few experimental lines, like Armor, and some that could be three years away."

Shocker, a hard-red variety released last year, is best adapted to the wheat growing areas south of I-70. The wheat is early maturing, with a good foliar protection package and rapid grain fill. Perry says Shocker is a good fit for later plantings and offers strong stripe rust protection.

Steve Ahring, company agronomist for DeLange Seed Company, attended the field day to learn of new lines and future releases from WestBred. Ahring agreed with Perry on the positive results of Shocker as a southern Kansas variety.

"It has a terrific yield and offers unique attributes for use in a double-crop system with soybeans or corn," Ahring says.

Perry says the Winterhawk variety has a good foliar package and consistently high test weights, especially compared to other class varieties like Jagaline and Onaga. The Spartan variety offers low pH tolerance and a powdery mildew, which Perry says Kansans don't see in many varieties. He is watchful of leaf rust on Spartan and is continuing to study its affect on the plant.

At the end of the day, the crowd was abuzz about Armor, WestBred's new release. Ahring says his company in Girard grew the Armor foundation seed for AGSECO Associates and he anticipated 80-bushel-per-acre yields for the new variety.

Because it's experimental, growers will have to wait until 2009 for Armor seed but Perry says it will be worth the wait.

"It is the whole complete package for south central Kansas and we're real excited about it," he says.

WestBred continues to improve yield potential and produce a total compliment for the traits needed in Kansas. Perry is realistic that varieties like Santa Fe, known for leaf rust resistance, are will at some point break down resistance.

"Bumping up yield potential is always at the top of the list for what moves things forward," he says. "And we're continually trying to introduce things that will have a different background and will compliment those varieties as they begin to be phased out."

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