By MITCH LIES
LA GRANDE, Ore. -- Local wheat farmer Tim Wallender regularly attends the Oregon State University Extension Service's winter wheat variety trials field tour.
"It gives us a glimpse into the future," Wallender said. "It lets us plan ahead for releases of new varieties."
Cove, Ore., wheat farmer and Oregon Wheat Commission board member Dale Case attends because he likes to see how the new varieties react to the Grande Ronde Valley's unique weather.
"When we see it growing in our area, it is more important than when we see it growing in Pendleton or Sherman," Case said.
The two farmers were among about a dozen farmers and about two dozen participants in the Union County Extension Service's 2013 field tour of Grande Ronde Valley winter wheat variety trials, held June 25 near La Grande.
The trials, funded by the Oregon Wheat Commission, showcased 70 different varieties, including 45 soft white wheat varieties and 25 hard red or hard white varieties.
"We try to hit all of the relevant commercial lines," OSU Extension Cereals Specialist Mike Flowers said.
Also, Flowers said, "pretty much all the (Northwest) breeding programs are represented," including major private breeders such as Syngenta, WestBred, Dow and Limagrain, and public breeders such as OSU, Washington State University and University of Idaho.
In the three-hour tour, growers were given insights into several promising new varieties, including Rosalyn, an OSU soft white winter wheat variety that has been the trial's top yielder the last three years. Rosalyn also shows good disease resistance and has good end-use qualities, said OSU wheat breeder Bob Zemetra.
Growers can look for it in 2015, Zemetra said.
Then there is Bobtail, also an OSU release. Second only to Rosalyn in yield in the soft white wheat trials in recent years, Bobtail also has good stripe rust and septoria resistance. And Bobtail is late-maturing, something growers here like, given that winters can stretch out in the cold, windy valley. Growers can look for Bobtail to be available in large quantities in 2014, Flowers said.
Growers here, where wheat is grown under irrigation, look for varieties with short, stiff straw, that have good disease resistance, Flowers said. Growers also like high yielding varieties that produce good protein levels, which can be difficult to achieve in irrigated wheat.
Judging by comments at the field day, several varieties in the 2013 trials meet those conditions.