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OSU wheat expert helps growers choose right varieties


Capital Press

PENDLETON, Ore. -- An Oregon State University wheat expert hopes to help farmers make the best choices as they select which varieties to plant next.

Mike Flowers, extensions cereals specialist, and Bob Zemetra, wheat breeder, teamed up during the Pendleton Field Day June 11 at OSU's Columbia Basin Agricultural Research Center.

Flowers walked the different varieties available to growers on the field day's demonstration plots, offering pros and cons of the options.

Flowers said growers often make their variety selection based on disease resistance, but can neglect other factors. He advises growers to plant a mix of wheat varieties for different attributes, including maturity. In wet, cool years, late-maturing varieties tend to perform better. In dry years, early-maturing varieties tend to be better, he said.

"They're spreading that risk across a greater reach and not just counting on one thing to carry them through," he said.

Flowers said growers should walk their fields beginning in the spring. In dry spells, cephalosporium stripe and fusarium crown rot will emerge, which growers tend to forget about because they haven't popped up for several years.

Flowers cautioned about soilborne wheat mosaic virus, found in the Milton-Freewater, Ore., area. Once fields have it, there's no getting rid of it, he warned.

"The only option you have is to grow resistant varieties," he said. "It's a small list. The best thing you could to do is to make sure you're doing some pretty good field habits. If you have a field with it, make sure you clean that equipment before you move it to the next field. It moves with soil."

Zemetra said that as a breeder, he works to find varieties that are higher yielding, disease resistant and meets a local market to reduce the need to store it or reduces growers' shipping costs.

Zemetra expects there will not be a problem with low protein this year, mostly due to the amount of moisture.


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