What spring wheat variety is right for you?

Pest and disease challenges are reducing AC Barrie acreage, 
but the alternatives require some careful thought

Just a few short years ago the questions surrounding planting spring wheat were fairly straightforward — such as how many acres and how did it pencil out.

A question that very rarely came up in Manitoba was what variety to plant — it was all but certain that the seed that went into the ground would be AC Barrie.

But growing pest and disease challenges in recent years has seen new varieties proliferate, the decision of what to plant has gotten more complex, said Pam de Rocquigny, cereals specialist with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives.

“There are a whole lot of new varieties out there that are beginning to capture acres,” de Rocquigny said at the recent Crop Diagnostic School. “We’re hoping to provide some information for you to help your clients pick the right one.”

One of the new varieties that’s captured a growing amount of attention is AC Carberry, a semi-dwarf variety with an MR rating to fusarium head blight.

Another worth a look is AC Shaw VB — VB standing for varietal blend. It’s a hard red spring wheat with midge tolerance that’s only sold in seed lots with a refuge variety blended into it, thus ensuring greater longevity for the trait’s efficacy.

“The VB varieties are 90 per cent of the stated variety and 10 per cent is a refuge crop,” de Rocquigny said

A growing number of general purpose wheat varieties are also coming to market, generally out of the CPS wheat-breeding programs. They’ve yet to widely tempt growers however, since the markets are less clearcut than for the standard hard red spring wheat.

In the end, there are a few key characteristics to look for and strategies to consider.

One is the variety’s disease package, including fusarium resistance. That’s a trickier question than it might seem.

“You might actually see that being a more important question somewhere like southwestern Manitoba, rather than in the Red River Valley where they’re already applying fungicides as a matter of course,” de Roquigny said. “Growers in areas where they’re making that decision season by season might want a good disease package so they have to spray less.”

Another key question is the end-use market. Growers without nearby domestic and commercial markets — which are few and far between in Manitoba — are likely going to keep growing spring wheat.

“We’ve got an ethanol plant in the province, and it’s using 80 per cent corn,” said de Rocquigny. “We also don’t have many feedlots.”

One thing that is certain is farmers can’t expect a return to the good old days of a single variety capturing most of the acres.

“This is going to be a more complex decision,” de Rocquigny said.

About the author

Editor

Gord Gilmour

Gord Gilmour is Editor of the Manitoba Co-operator.

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