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Planting U.S. wheat varieties

At the 2012 Manitoba Agronomists Conference in Winnipeg on Dece-mber 12, Pam de Rocquigny, Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives’ provincial cereal crop specialist, spoke about U.S. wheat varieties.

While Manitoba farmers have always watched what’s going on south of the border, the removal of single-desk selling has increased interest in U.S. wheat varieties .

The 2012 Manitoba variety report shows quite a few unregistered varieties being gown in Manitoba.

This may be because, as de Rocquigny says, while Western Canada has a reputation for producing high quality milling wheat, we are “behind, in terms of our yield growth in wheat.

Over the last decade, Canadian wheat yields have grown by 0.7 per cent annually. De Rocquigny says this growth rate “is the worst among all developed nations. In the U.S., she says, “They’re not doing too much better in terms of their annual increase in wheat yields, as opposed to other countries, like the U.K. or Germany.”

However, even with our lower rate of increase, “Manitoba does generally have higher spring wheat yields compared to our counterparts south of the border.”

When it comes to higher yields and higher profits, genetics are just one piece of the puzzle. Here are some factors de Rocquigny urges farmers to consider.

Check Regulations

“The Seeds Regulations do require that varieties of most agricultural crops be registered prior to sale of seed in Canada and prior to import of seed into Canada.” While there are a few exemptions (mainly for conditioning, research, or pedigreed seed), it’s best to make sure the variety you choose is on the Canadian Grain Commission’s (CGC’s) variety designation list.

There has been a trend in the number of varieties being registered. In 2002 there were five. Last year, there were 15.

De Rocquigny says, deregistered varieties are “only eligible for the lowest grade of that type of grain.” For example, if you decide to grow Faller wheat, “it is only eligible for feedwheat status.”

Inclusion on the CGC’s variety designation list can impact insurance coverage. Varieties on the list are only insurable as feed wheat. In that case, de Rocquigny says, “there are no grade guarantees, and of course there’s a lower price attached to them as well.”

De Rocquigny says, “Nothing prevents a farmer and a grain company from negotiating a contract based on quality specifications outside of the statutory grading system for the delivered grain, regardless of the variety.” If you do this, make sure you have a secure market before you put the seed in the ground, and remember that it needs to be kept separate from other grains, to avoid contamination.

Check the data

If you’re using data to help you make your decision, make sure you’re comparing apples to apples. De Rocquigny says, “there are some key differences as to how the data is presented.”

For example, in North Dakota, maturity is measured as “days to head.” In our provincial seed guides, we typically compare varieties using “days to maturity” — to the time when the kernel has 16 to 18 per cent moisture content, or when the kernels resist denting by fingernail.

While in some cases, this data will be closely correlated with days to maturity, that may not always be the case.

Fertility

De Rocquigny reminded the audience that “you can have the best genetics out there in terms of yield potential,” but you’re going to need optimal management to support those genetics. No matter which variety you choose, tailor fertility to maximize yield potential.

For newer semi-dwarf varieties coming to market, more fertility research may be needed to be sure fertility programs match Manitoba conditions.

Breeding programs

New breeding programs may bring higher yield. De Rocquigny says that currently, “there is little or no means for the private sector to capture return on investment.” When it comes to spring wheat, “you see a lot of farmers saving seed.”

In the U.S., there is some public breeding, “but public varieties do dominate market share.

In Australia, in 2000, 95 per cent of wheat breeding was in done by the public sector. With major changes there (including eliminating single desk selling), by 2012, 100 per cent of wheat breeding was done by six private sector companies.

De Rocquigny says, to date, yield potential is comparable between Manitoba and North Dakota. †

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