By Jochum Wiersma
This year presented a challenging growing season for wheat. Delayed planting, a hot and humid July, Fusarium head blight and bacterial leaf streak took their toll on the crop.
The National Agricultural Statistics Service numbers bear this out in the Sept. 30 Annual Small Grains Summary. Minnesota's average hard red spring wheat yield declined by 9 bushels, or 16%, from last year's average of 55 bushels per acre. The only bright spot has to be that much of the HRSW produced contained higher grain protein compared to the previous three years, eliminating the steep discounts for below par (14%) grain protein contents at the elevator.
Projected record-high prices for corn and soybeans may discourage growers from using acreage for wheat after this disappointing growing season. How can wheat growers respond to this so they can look forward to growing wheat next year?
First, the 2011 growing season stressed once more the importance of planting date. Delayed planting past the optimum window is more punishing for the cool season annual grasses such as wheat, barley and oats than it is for soybeans and corn. Beyond planting date, it stresses the importance that variety selection is an important tool to manage weather and market risks.
The University of Minnesota released two new HRSW varieties this spring.
'Rollag' has a unique combination of strong straw and the highest-available resistance to Fusarium head blight. Rollag's pedigree includes Ada and a scab-resistant Canadian line. It is a medium-maturity variety with high yield potential, and above-average protein and test weight. The variety is also moderately resistance to leaf diseases.
'Prosper,' developed at North Dakota State University, is the first-ever joint release with the University of Minnesota. Prosper is a sister line of Faller and has, overall, a similar performance to Faller, including the good rating against Fusarium head blight. Under Minnesota conditions, Prosper may even show a slight increase in yield, test weight and grain protein when compared to Faller, which has been the most popular variety in the past two years with approximately 30% of the HRSW acreage.
For more information about agricultural production of small grains, visit www.smallgrains.org, a collaborative website from University of Minnesota Extension and the Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers.
-By Jochum Wiersma, small-grains specialist, University of Minnesota Extension