By JOHN O'CONNELL
The high-yielding soft white variety SY Ovation, which is tolerant to stripe rust and other diseases, is the top winter wheat variety now planted in Idaho fields, according to a variety survey conducted by the Idaho Wheat Commission.
The long-time industry standby, Brundage, which is highly susceptible to new stripe rust strains, has dropped to sixth in percentage of planted acres.
The commission took over the variety survey in June 2012, after USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service opted to include its overhead costs in survey contracts with commodity groups, which would have increased the commission's bill from $5,000 to $28,000.
The commission hopes to have its third in-house survey, seeking this season's top spring wheat varieties, mailed or emailed to growers by July 8. Cathy Wilson, the commission's director of research collaboration, said material costs for the survey have averaged $6,000, and staff time continues to decline as its database and questionnaires have been completed.
Wilson based her database on the grower list the commission used for its survey four years ago about a proposed assessment increase, gradually adding more large growers and removing names of inactive growers. The database now includes 2,700 growers who receive paper surveys and 530 who prefer emails. Between 10 and 20 percent of growers who receive surveys have responded, which Wilson said is typical of most direct mail campaigns but below the 30 to 40 percent level she'd like to hit.
"I think the biggest thing is growers aren't accustomed to us doing the survey. They're accustomed to being asked questions by NASS, but they don't necessarily pay attention when they get something in the mail from us," Wilson said.
The most recent survey -- which won't be formally released until Wilson finishes calculating exact percentages -- shows Syngenta's SY Ovation had roughly double the acres of the second-ranked winter wheat variety, Stephens, followed closely by Madson and OCRF 102. Eltan was the fifth most popular variety.
SY Ovation, released for the 2012 winter wheat planting season, was the first variety in the Pacific Northwest using doubled-haploid breeding, a high-tech method of speeding the breeding process.
The Clearfield variety OCRF 102, which is bred to be resistant to Beyond herbicide, was the top planted variety in the 2012 winter wheat survey, representing 8 percent of the crop. The previous top variety, Brundage, was bumped to second, due to concerns about the fungal disease stripe rust.
Wilson receives frequent requests for the data from growers, millers and grain elevators.
"The varieties planted is really important information. It is used by growers to become aware of the changes, and there are some major changes happening in the number of varieties available and the advances the varieties have," Wilson said.
Wayne Palmer, with Nelson Seed Co. in American Falls, has plans to cut back on his Brundage seed supply.
He believes the reports are useful for planning inventories. But he emphasizes the importance of knowing the local market. For example, restrictions prevent growers from planting sugar beets or potatoes following Clearfield wheat, making OCRF 102 more popular among dry-land growers. About three-quarters of his customers are irrigated farmers.