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Variety selection is critical decision for wheat growers

Clark Neely Texas AgriLife Extension small grains specialist College Station
<p>Clark Neely, Texas AgriLife Extension small grains specialist, College Station</p>
Wheat varieties offer widely different characteristics in such crucial areas as milling quality, disease resistance, insect tolerance and regional adaptation.

Selecting the right wheat variety for a specific location, a specific use or to avoid a specific problem may take a little time but will be well worth the effort.

“Variety selection is important,” says Clark Neely, Texas AgriLife Extension small grains specialist, College Station. Neely discussed varieties at the recent Big Country Wheat Conference in Abilene.

“Not all varieties are created equal,” he said to a near-overflow crowd that gathers here every other year to hear the latest on wheat production and pertinent farm issues.

He said varieties offer widely different characteristics in such crucial areas as milling quality, disease resistance, insect tolerance and regional adaptation.

“Genetic yield and test weights are different” among the many varieties available today, he said. “And varieties can perform differently under various production and climatic conditions. Disease and insect tolerance may break down over time.”

That’s why vigorous breeding programs continually look for newer, better varieties. “Growers should look at variety characteristic tables to learn about insect and disease tolerance.” He said the Texas AgriLife variety testing website is a good place to start.

That site offers the latest information on top-yielding varieties, tested across multiple locations and multiple years. Information on disease and insect tolerance—including Hessian fly, green bug and Russian wheat aphid—is available from the site.

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Neely said recent tests also show that some varieties respond with significant yield increases following fungicide applications. Results have shown improvements as high as 19 bushels per acre with a recommended fungicide spray program. Other, more disease resistant varieties may show little to no advantage from fungicide application.


Top Picks

Some varieties also show tolerance to one disease but susceptibility to another. That information is available on the variety trial website.

Neely recommends wheat growers also consider the Extension “Top Picks List” for a particular region. Those varieties have shown consistent performance over multiple years of testing and in multiple locations. The “Top Picks” may not always be the most popular varieties grown in a region, he said.

He offered an example of performance from four years of data in the Abilene area. The top performing wheat variety—a four-year yield average—is Greer, at 35.4 bushels per acre. A close second is Tam 305 at 34.7, followed by Tam 113 at 33.8, Duster at 33.6, Jackpot at 33 and Tam 304 at 32.1.

A new entry, Tam 114, averaged 28 bushels per acre over the two years it has been tested.

Tam 114 comes with “excellent resistance to leaf and stripe rust and stem rust.” He said the variety is a good option for grazing or for dual use.

Tam 204 is an awnless wheat that is “promising for grain and forage production and has resistance to wheat aphid and Russian fly.”  

Neely said forage trials show triticale and rye as top performers with results skewed somewhat by a hard 2014 winter. “We lost some production,” he said.

Barley and oats were at the bottom of the list, but Neely said oats would perform better when conditions are not as cold.

Several new companies are moving into wheat breeding, Neely said, including Limagrain and Bayer. New varieties will provide better choices for wheat growers, some of whom may need to replace popular varieties with some from the “Top Picks” list.

“It’s also an advantage to buy certified seed,” he said.

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