New hard red wheat variety could be 'game changer'
By MATTHEW WEAVER
Farmers will soon have a new wheat they can plant in the fall but will grade like a dark northern spring variety.
The Washington State University variety release committee recently recommended release for breeder Arron Carter's hard red wheat WA 8118.
WA 8118 is "potentially a game changer," said Rich Koenig, WSU Extension director, noting farmers can plant it in the fall and seed sparse areas affected by winterkill with spring wheat in the spring without worrying about mixing wheat classes.
Carter said the variety must be exposed to low temperatures to flower, but would be sold in the hard red spring market. In the marketplace, hard red spring wheats and hard red winter wheats are kept separate.
If mixed with another hard red winter wheat, it would grade in a mixed-market class.
Hard red spring wheat prices average about a dollar per bushel more than hard red winter wheats, Carter said.
The variety heads about eight to 10 days earlier than traditional hard red winter wheats, which could mean slightly lower yield potential in some areas.
The variety, tentatively named Sprinter -- a combination of "spring" and "winter" -- would do well in dry areas and irrigated regions, particularly planted late following potatoes.
Carter said the variety would open up some cropping system rotations for growers interested in planting later. It starts growing faster and is more productive than a typical winter wheat in the spring.
As a hard red spring wheat, it would make good protein, but growers would need to fertilize accordingly.
"There are going to be some management issues we need to make growers aware of," Carter said, noting he's been in contact with end-use quality and grading representatives to eliminate any potential problems.
Carter is working with the USDA Risk Management Agency to determine how the variety will be treated for crop insurance purposes.
USDA Agricultural Research Service's soft white wheat, ARS Selbu, was also recommended for release.
ARS wheat breeder Kim Campbell said growers have grown used to applying fungicide for strawbreaker foot rot and stripe rust. ARS Selbu is resistant to both, so she hopes growers will consider it reliable to be grown without additional fungicide inputs.
ARS Selbu is intended for intermediate to high rainfall zones, and for regions where stripe rust limits yields.
Koenig said Selbu has a good disease resistance package and continues Campbell's legacy of high-quality wheat.
The committee is still deciding what to recommend for Carter's soft white wheat, WA 8134. Koenig expects an answer within two weeks.
The committee recommended holding two-gene immidazolinone-resistant soft white winter wheat varieties WA 8143 and WA 8155 from Kulvinder Gill for another year to gather more data, Koenig said.
Recommendations are made to Agricultural Research Center director Ralph Cavalieri. Koenig said Sprinter and Selbu would likely be available to growers in the fall of 2014.