Wheat demand

The new soft white spring wheat Ryan is in short supply this year, dealers say.

Seed for a high-yielding new soft white spring wheat variety is in short supply this year, dealers say.

Geoff Schulz, seed operations manager for HighLine Grain Growers in Reardan, Wash., said he’s been sold out of Washington State University’s new soft white spring wheat Ryan for six weeks. He gets calls every day from farmers and other seed companies looking for Ryan and another WSU soft white spring, Seahawk.

Many of the calls come from irrigated farmers who usually plant dark northern spring wheat, he said.

“I could have sold four times as much Ryan as what I had out there, and I thought I was swimming in it,” he said.

WSU’s spring wheat breeder, Mike Pumphrey, pointed to Ryan as the highest-yielding soft white spring wheat in intermediate or high rainfall zone trials in recent years.

“Its yield has been 8 to 15 percent higher than the varieties that came before,” Pumphrey said. “That’s a lot of money per acre, if other inputs are about the same.”

Ryan also matures earlier than other varieties, has good disease resistance and good falling number test results, making it a low-risk variety, Pumphrey said.

Ryan also has potential in the premium or value-added market because of good noodle properties that some domestic and international customers desire, Pumphrey said, adding that they may potentially contract specifically for the variety.

Part of the high demand is because Washington growers are taking a closer look at soft white spring wheat this year.

Prices for red and white wheats are close, said Mike Miller, Washington Grain Commission board member and a Ritzville farmer. Red wheat typically receives a higher price than white wheat.

On the Portland market, soft white wheat ranges from $5.90 to $6.30 per bushel. Dark northern spring wheat ranges from $6.43 to $6.84 per bushel, depending on protein percentage.

Miller said some growers are switching to white wheat and some are sticking with red wheat.

Some varieties, such as Ryan, might be in short supply at certain companies, but Miller doesn’t think there will be a shortage of soft white wheat seed overall.

The industry is already taking steps to increase Ryan supplies for next year.

The Washington State Crop Improvement Association works with seed companies to order foundation seed a year in advance. Foundation seed is a class of certified seed that seed companies purchase to plant and raise into registered seed. It in turn is planted to produce certified seed, which is available to most growers.

Manager Lauren Port said the association hasn’t been able to meet the demand for Ryan. It has seen increased demand for Seahawk, but should be able to meet orders for that variety, she said.

Port expects to increase planting of Ryan this year to meet demand next year.

High demand from growers is Pumphrey’s goal as a wheat breeder.

“I hope with any given variety that there’s a pull because it really truly is a better replacement, and it’s obviously better, without much marketing or promotion,” he said. “We’ve hit that mark a few times lately and those varieties get popular really fast.”

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