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Breeder trials show winter wheat improvements

Winter wheat growers can look forward to superior new varieties coming down the pipe.

A number of varieties, including Kestrel and Raptor, will drop out of the milling-quality Canadian Western Red Winter class and into the general purpose class a year from now. On Aug. 1, 2014, Falcon will also drop into the GP class.

“The nice thing is that we’ve got Flourish coming along by that time — it’ll be a replacement for Falcon, with certified seed ready for seeding next fall,” said Ken Gross, a winter wheat expert with Ducks Unlimited Canada, who gave a presentation on the latest winter wheat research during the recent Westman Agricultural Diversification Organization field day.

Exact percentages haven’t been pinned down yet, but breeding trials are showing that Flourish is superior to Falcon.

Winter wheat in Manitoba is currently dominated by two varieties, said Gross.

In the Red River Valley, where shorter straw is preferred, and south of the Trans-Canada Highway, Falcon is No. 1 while more winter-hardy Buteo reigns north of that line.

“I think that’s going to change once they have Flourish,” said Gross.

Sunrise, a new and very high-yielding soft red winter wheat with short straw and lower nitrogen requirements has been clocked at 100 bushels to the acre compared to Falcon’s 80.

With the class changes, the newer varieties will offer more marketing options, including ethanol or milling.

There has also been progress in fusarium resistance, and even stripe rust, in the new winter wheats.

Emerson, a variety developed in Lethbridge by breeder Rob Graf, is showing moderate resistance to fusarium and should be ready by the fall of 2014.

When poring over Manitoba Crop Variety Evaluation Trial data, growers should remember those plots are never sprayed with fungicides, he said, which may push yield data to the short side when compared to actual practice using good crop management.

“For example, I’ve seen Ptarmigan go 120 bushels to the acre,” said Gross. “Ptarmigan doesn’t have a very good disease package to start with, so the fact that it’s showing any kind of response even with no spraying shows how much potential it has.”

Fungicide trials are currently looking at the effect of spraying at the flag and early anthesis stage. Results so far show that applying fungicide early at the same time as herbicides is not as good as waiting for a second round.

“It’s the flag that you want to protect,” said Gross, adding that early anthesis is also showing better results.

“If you want to get the highest yields and quality, two fungicides seem to be common practice.”

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