K-State, Wheat Rx arm producers with the knowledge they need to successfully select this year's wheat varieties

Posted August 31, 2022

The potential for next year’s wheat harvest kicks off with deciding which varieties to plant, and the annual release of the Kansas Agricultural Experiment Station’s data provides critical insights into helping Kansas producers make that decision.

“Using data to help select the right varieties for your growing region, crop rotation and management goals is the first step to having a successful harvest,” said Aaron Harries, Kansas Wheat vice president of research and operations. “But there’s a lot of choices, especially as public and private breeding programs release new varieties every year. The annual K-State report is one tool for producers to help make these decisions, especially as it is not feasible for growers to individually test every variety on their own.” 

The Kansas Agricultural Experiment Station compiles field trial results each year, sharing a recap of the past year’s growing season — including weather, insect and disease pressure — and, most importantly, data and insights comparing new and currently grown wheat varieties across the different regions of Kansas. 

The report provides unbiased performance test results to help Kansas wheat producers select the optimal varieties for their operations. K-State does not endorse or recommend varieties, but instead, compares the data from scientifically conducted performance tests at several sites. K-State also includes information on other greenhouse and laboratory tests, including pest tolerance, baking quality and other factors.

Another benefit of the Kansas Agricultural Experiment Station’s reporting is the ability to track how currently planted varieties have performed over time. Growers can quickly highlight which varieties have consistent performance through replicated trials in their region. 

“It takes a considerable effort, careful study and good judgment to make informed decisions on what varieties to plant,” Harries said. “But when combined with a grower’s experience with how varieties have performed on their fields, field trial data helps producers start the growing season off on a good start, Mother Nature permitting.” 

Kansas Wheat Rx — a program that disseminates to Kansas wheat farmers the latest research recommendations for producing high-yielding and high-quality wheat — provides additional guidance on how producers can use information like the annual K-State report to select the best varieties. Follow these suggested steps for successful variety selection:

Review yield data from regional trials located in the area of interest for several years to find varieties that consistently rise toward at least the top third or quarter in yield performance. Avoid relying on data from one location or only one year of testing, as this information can be misleading. 
Once a list of consistent yielders for a region is developed, think about which systems these varieties are going to be established into each field (e.g., dual purpose, after corn, or late planted after soybeans). 
For each system, think about which production problems have reduced the yield potential of the crop over the past five years. For instance, for wheat after corn, it may be Fusarium head scab, while for wheat after soybeans it may be a lack of fall growth; meanwhile, stripe rust or drought may be a problem in both systems. 
Once these problems are recognized, go back to the list of high-yielding varieties and try to identify varieties that have strong ratings for tolerance or resistance to them. 
Determine if the group of varieties has been tested for milling and baking quality and try to choose the varieties with above-average ratings. 
From this group, pick the top three or four varieties, depending on farm acreage, based on yield in performance and strengths and weaknesses that match the needs in each field. 

Another resource available to producers is the “Wheat Varieties for Kansas and the Great Plains — Your Best Choices” book, published annually by 34 Star Publishing. This book provides objective ratings and yield results on all the current wheat varieties for Kansas, Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle, southern Nebraska and eastern Colorado. The book is included as a benefit for members of the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers and has just recently been sent out. To get your copy, visit https://thewheatfarmer.com/wheat-varieties-book/.

Read the full “2022 Kansas Performance Tests with Winter Wheat Varieties” report at https://bookstore.ksre.ksu.edu/pubs/SRP1172.pdf. For additional guidance and information on wheat variety selection and best practices, check out Kansas Wheat Rx at kswheat.com/wheatrx