When farmers ask Ryan Higginbotham which wheat variety they should plant, he asks, “What are the things that worry you?”
“There isn’t a variety out there that’s going to satisfy all your needs or give you protection from every stress or disease that’s out there,” said Higginbotham, director of Washington State University’s cereal variety testing program.
Some farmers likely have already finished planting in the area near Waterville and Mansfield in Central Washington. Planting work moves across the state, finishing in the Palouse in October, Higginbotham said.
Yield is still the most significant consideration, Higginbotham said. After that, farmers should consider a variety’s susceptibility to a disease of concern. They should also consider availability of the variety in their area.
“If they’ve been burned by a certain disease in the past, try and find a variety that has genetic resistance,” Higginbotham said. “That’s your best bet.”
Early planters need to worry about the green bridge effect, when diseases such as stripe rust move into the fall-planted wheat from weeds or last year’s crop, particularly if the fall is warm and moist, said Mike Flowers, outgoing extension cereals specialist at Oregon State University. He will take a position with Limagrain Cereal Seeds in mid-September.
“Later plantings aren’t necessarily going to not have those issues, but the earlier you go, the more likely you are to run into some of those issues,” Flowers said.
He advises farmers plant a resistant variety and watch throughout the winter into spring. Delayed planting helps, although it may not be possible, depending on a farmer’s location or cropping system.
This is the first big commercial production year for several varieties, including WSU’s Jasper, Norwest Duet from OSU and Limagrain; WestBred 1783 and Syngenta varieties SY Banks, SY Dayton, SY Raptor and SY Command.
Higginbotham encourages farmers to look at all available information about such varieties to see if they fit in their area. If so, they should try it, in small amounts.
“I wouldn’t recommend anybody plant their whole farm to a new variety,” he said.
Dana Herron, a member of the Washington Grain Commission and co-owner of Tri-State Seed in Connell, Wash., recommends farmers think about whether they need a Clearfield wheat variety, which is resistant to Beyond herbicide, allowing farmers to remove grassy weeds in the field without hurting the wheat, or if they have a problem with strawbreaker foot rot, also known as sharp eyespot disease. Genetic resistance to it is available in some varieties.
Sometimes the disease can be evident and sometimes it’s difficult to diagnose, Herron said. A background infection can reduce yield by three to five bushels per acre without a farmer knowing.
“If you want to know for sure, spray half a field,” Herron said. “I’ll guarantee you you’ll never not spray the other half again.”
Herron said moisture levels are average to good and disease pressure is normal. Aphid pressure should be high due to high corn production in the Columbia Basin, he said. The aphids themselves don’t eat much, but are a vector for barley yellowdwarf virus. Herron recommends insecticide seed treatments.
Falling number wasn’t a widespread problem this year. If it’s a big concern, Higginbotham recommends looking at variety performance information on USDA researcher Camille Steber’s website.