Wheat disease, insect ratings available; tips on blended wheats

Posted July 24, 2013

The 2013 wheat harvest is a recent memory, but Kansas wheat farmers are already thinking about the 2014 crop.

Yield potential of a wheat variety is a priority for farmers choosing which variety to plant this fall, but resistance to diseases and insect pests is also an important factor.

Erick DeWolf, extension plant pathologist at Kansas State University, says K-State Research and Extension’s publication, The Wheat Variety Disease and Insect Ratings can help growers identify the best varieties for their farms. The publication also provides helpful summaries to help producers better understand the historical risk of diseases in their area and quickly identify the varieties with the best overall disease resistance.

Electronic versions of the Wheat Variety Disease and Insect Rating, 2013 publication (MF991) can be found on-line at: http://www.ksre.ksu.edu/bookstore/pubs/MF991.pdf Or, pick up a copy at your local Extension office.

Meanwhile, Extension crop production specialist Jim Shroyer reminds farmers that blends of multiple wheat varieties have some advantages in many situations, especially in providing yield stability. While any one variety may do much better or worse than other varieties in the same vicinity, having a blend of two or three varieties can usually even out those ups and downs. This reduces the chances of having a landlord upset because the variety planted on his or her land yielded considerably less than other fields in the area.

Blends have been used more widely in north central Kansas than any other region in the state over the past five years, according to the Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service annual survey of Wheat Varieties. The acreage planted to blends tends to be affected by the availability of blends from local certified seed producers and the timing of new variety releases and their performance when planted alone in a particular district.

To be effective in stabilizing yield potential, consideration should be given to which wheat varieties to use in making a blend. Here are some basic principles:

* Use varieties with different types of disease resistance. Although the cost effectiveness of fungicides now may reduce the importance of this factor, there is still value to having at least one natural source of resistance to diseases.

* Use varieties with slightly different maturities. If producers can spread out the maturity a bit, there is a better chance that at least one of the varieties can benefit from a given weather pattern. For example, later-maturing variety might be able to take better advantage of a late rain than an early-maturing variety.

* Use varieties with different levels of winterhardiness and spring greenup tendencies. If there are high-yielding varieties available, but which have poor winterhardiness or a tendency to break dormancy early in the spring, blend them with varieties that have better winterhardiness or a stronger spring dormancy.

* Use varieties that yield well. Do not include a low-yielding variety just for the sake of genetic diversity.

* Do not be afraid to use the very newest varieties.

Shroyer warns that blends do have some disadvantages; they are unlikely to result in the highest yields possible in any given year. And blends do not provide the same level of management flexibility as a pure variety.