The most planted wheat variety in Idaho last year wasn’t even on the Idaho Wheat Commission’s annual leading wheat variety list three years ago.
SY Ovation’s quick rise to the top of the list shows how rapidly the wheat variety game is changing, said Cathy Wilson, the IWC’s director of research collaboration.
SY Ovation, a soft white winter wheat variety from Syngenta, accounted for 8 percent of the wheat acres planted in Idaho in 2014.
It was followed by Brundage at 6 percent, a University of Idaho soft white winter wheat variety; and ORCF 102 at 5 percent, the Oregon State University soft white winter wheat variety that topped the 2013 list.
Jentzsch-Kearl Farms, a 16,000-acre partnership in Southcentral Idaho, grew SY Ovation for the first time in 2014.
Like a lot of other operations, the farm read and heard some good things about it, said marketing manager Ned Moon. “Basically, that was the reason we tried it.”
The days of varieties with 30-year lifespans are over in Idaho, Wilson said.
More than 70 wheat varieties are listed on the 2014 survey and seven public and private breeding programs in the Pacific Northwest plan to produce 3-4 new varieties each year, she said.
The survey data, which is broken down by region, is useful to growers, breeders, seed dealers and buyers, Wilson said.
Breeders like the data because they want to know if they’re hitting the mark with producers on their new developments, she said, and some growers may decide to plant a certain variety only after seeing it near the top of the list.
When potential customers look at Idaho wheat, the first question they ask is about the different classes of wheat grown here, said IWC Executive Director Blaine Jacobson.
“Once they get a handle on that, they start to delve into the varieties. There are certain varieties they would prefer,” he said. “By having the variety survey, we are able to show them the availability of their preferred varieties.”
The survey also lets growers know what kind of return they’re getting on their research dollars, Jacobson said.
“There are a myriad of ways the information is used,” Wilson said. “It’s very important information and becoming more important as we go into the future of a more sophisticated wheat market and many, many more varieties to choose from.”
The 2014 survey represented about 20 percent of all Idaho wheat acres.
Rounding out the top 10 in 2014: Whit, Madsen and Diva all accounted for 4 percent of total Idaho wheat acres; Coda and Jefferson each accounted for 3 percent; and WB 456 and Garland both were at 2 percent.
The top 10 varieties accounted for 41 percent of all Idaho wheat acres planted last year.
SY Ovation was the top variety planted in North Idaho; Brundage was by far the most popular variety in East Idaho; Stephens led in Southwestern Idaho; and Garland was king in Southcentral Idaho.