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Agricultural News

OSU's Wheat Improvement Team Working on Enhancing Crop Varieties

Thu, 15 Sep 2011 11:01:33 CDT

OSU's Wheat Improvement Team Working on Enhancing Crop Varieties Drought resistance, disease resistance, producing both quality and quantity: all are desired traits of new wheat varieties produced on behalf of producers and related agribusiness operators by the division's Wheat Improvement Team.

"Access to genetically improved cultivars with marketable grain quality that stand the best chance of weathering Oklahoma's often-harsh growing conditions is the lifeblood of the state's wheat industry," said Brett Carver, WIT leader and holder of Oklahoma State University's wheat genetics chair. "It's no small challenge."

Point in fact: Wheat and other "general crops" such as soybeans, cotton and hay accounted for approximately $905 million in lost agricultural production from Oklahoma's excessive and historic 2011 drought.

Wheat harvested in Oklahoma totaled 166.5 million bushels in 2008, 77 million bushels in 2009, 120.9 million bushels in 2010 and 74.8 million bushels in 2011.

"It's been quite a roller-coaster ride for our state wheat producers, and not the fun kind; they need to plant the best adapted crop for their area, which underscores the importance of the work being conducted by our WIT researchers," said Clarence Watson, Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station associate director.

Watson pointed out that the continued improvement of wheat cultivars is more heavily dependent than other crops on public research like that done at the nation's land-grant universities.

Three of the top four wheat varieties planted in Oklahoma for the 2011 crop year were developed by division scientists: Endurance, the most popular variety with 18.9 percent of total wheat acres planted; Duster, the second-most popular variety with 16.6 percent; and OK-Bullet, the fourth-most planted variety accounting for 7.2 percent of total acres.

Jagger, an older variety developed by Kansas State University and a longtime favorite amongst Oklahoma producers, fell to third place in 2011, accounting for 10 percent of total planted wheat acres. Jagger accounted for 40.8 percent of Oklahoma wheat acres in 2007.

In 2011, two new OSU-developed wheat varieties were made available: Garrison and Ruby Lee. In 2011-2012, these new releases can be viewed in the OSU Wheat Variety Trials conducted by WIT scientist Jeff Edwards.

Garrison has statewide adaptability and produced consistently good yields over a 5-year test period. It has excellent tolerance to acidic soils and matures relatively late and thus misses early spring freezes. Garrison has good tolerance to fusarium head blight, a disease that can hurt grain yields grown in a wheat-corn crop rotation. The variety is considered to be a replacement for Endurance with better disease resistance, test weight and good protein.

Ruby Lee also has statewide adaptability plus superior yield potential and outstanding milling and baking characteristics. It produces a high test weight and very large kernel size, is earlier to mature than Endurance and is an excellent fall forage-producing variety.

In a normal year, Oklahoma producers plant about 2.5 million acres of "dual-purpose wheat," which are used for livestock grazing during the fall and winter months and then are harvested for grain by early summer.

"Ruby Lee is an alternative to the high-production levels of Billings where soils have a pH level more than 5.5, with better cold tolerance and dual-purpose yields," Carver said.

Carver and his fellow OSU wheat breeders were concerned that drought conditions would make data scarce this year for many varieties. Instead, the team members' thoughts about many varieties' drought tolerance were confirmed.

"Many of the varieties that have Duster in their parentage continued to shine, combining relatively good drought tolerance with strong disease resistance," he said. "But as great as these varieties are, we can do better. That is the land-grant university mission. It's who we are and what we do."



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