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Wheat woes

The Canadian County OSU Extension Office in conjunction with the Oklahoma State University Department of Plant and Soil Services and the Oklahoma Wheat Commission held an event in Banner to compare different kinds of wheat varieties. (Staff photo by Jon Watje)

By Jon Watje
Managing Editor 

BANNER - Wheat experts are predicting a very rough year for producers in 2014.

That is why it is crucial for wheat varieties to yield the most when it comes to harvest time, but choosing the right variety can be a difficult and crucial decision for farmers.

"Overall, it is not looking great for the state and we are expecting the total number of bushels to be two-thirds lower than it was last year," said Mike Schulte, Marketing Director at the Oklahoma Wheat Commission.

The district-by-district reports that were presented at the annual meeting of the Oklahoma Grain and Feed Association meeting on Wednesday, April 30 in Oklahoma City suggested a wheat crop that will produce 70.532 million bushels at harvest. Some say the 2014 crop could be as small or even smaller than the crop produced in 2011, when only 70 million bushels of wheat were harvested on just 3.2 million acres.

The central Oklahoma district, which includes Canadian County and Grady County, is expected to produce 8.24 million bushels in 2014.

Thankfully for farmers struggling to find a new wheat variety that yields the most, the Canadian County OSU Extension Office in conjunction with the OSU Department of Plant and Soil Services and the Oklahoma Wheat Commission, held a Wheat Day in Banner on Thursday, May 1 to give local producers the opportunity to compare new and old wheat varieties side-by-side.

"We have been doing the Wheat Day in Canadian County for 24 years now," said Brad Tipton, an Extension Educator at the Canadian County OSU Extension Office. "We do this every spring and it gives farmers a unique chance to do a side-by-side comparison with the different varieties. There are many factors that go into choosing a variety, you have to look at their pH tolerance, how they handle different diseases, how they recover from grazing and droughts."

Dr. Jeff Edwards, a professor and small grains extension specialist at Oklahoma State University, said he was approached by Tipton years ago about starting the replicated variety trial in Canadian County.

"Brad was very passionate about starting the program in Canadian County and ever since we started doing it here, I have always enjoyed coming back here and working with him," Edwards said.

Edwards provided information about the different wheat varieties at the event, giving pros and cons about each one. Some of the varieties he spoke about included Endurance, Billings, Ruby Lee, Garrison, Duster, Iba, Jackpot and Doans.

"A variety that has proven to be strong in rebounding from grazing is Endurance and Billings is not drought-prone," he said. "However, Billings is susceptible to freeze."

Edwards said one of his favorite new varieties was Ruby Lee.

"Ruby Lee has top yield potential and is a very good forage producer," he said. "However, it is not very good at disease resistance."

Duster has been the number one variety in Oklahoma for several years now, and Dr. Edwards said he expects that trend to continue.

"There is a reason why it has been the number one variety in the state," he said. "It is a great forage producer and handles grazing very well."

Dr. Brett Carver of the Department of Plant and Soil Services at OSU discussed breeding varieties and the work that goes into releasing new kinds of varieties to producers.

"It takes an average of 12 years to release a new variety and there are 300,000 data points that goes into one variety," Carver said. "These points come from yields from different plots from different areas. There is a lot of work that goes into this. We appreciate the Oklahoma Wheat Commission and Oklahoma Genetics Inc. for investing a combined one million dollars for wheat research."

Tipton, who will retire from the Canadian County OSU Extension Officer this summer after over 30 years of service, said he is proud of the partnership between the county and OSU.

"We have a world-class wheat team in Oklahoma and thanks to this team we are having better wheat yields," he said.


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