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Avoid grain protein discounts in 2010

By Jochum Wiersma and Doug Holen Jr., University of Minnesota Extension

ST. PAUL, Minn. (3/22/2010) --The price for hard red spring wheat (HRSW) is discounted when protein content is low. After the disastrous protein discounts many producers faced in 2009, there is keen interest in avoiding them in 2010.

In addition to University of Minnesota research on nitrogen management strategies for grain protein and profitability, University researchers are evaluating the performance of variety blends. It appears that variety selection is the single most important step to limit the risk for grain protein discounts in HRSW next harvest.

Blending is the intentional mixing of multiple varieties that are seeded across a field in hopes the mix will outperform the individual varieties. In the absence of a single variety that possesses all the desirable genetic traits, the idea is to blend varieties to maximize individual strengths and mask weaknesses. In Kansas, winter wheat variety blends are currently the fourth leading "variety" planted.

The perceived advantages of this approach include yield stabilization, compensation effect and reduced pest pressure; there is some research to back up these perceptions regarding hard red winter wheat blends and soft red winter wheat. The disadvantages include seed mixing (redone each year), variety incompatibility (flowering and harvest) and losing the ability to manage each variety separately.

One of the combinations in the trial that is currently underway is the combination of Faller and Glenn for combining yield and protein. These two varieties of HRSW have been mixed in various ratios and compared to pure cultivars of either variety. Preliminary analysis shows no pattern that suggests blends are more stable than pure stands. There appear to be no performance or stability advantages to blending HRSW cultivars in comparison to pure stands.

The advantages to blending reported in other types of wheat have simply not been found in HRSW to date. The most effective way to avoid protein price discounts is not choosing the right varieties for a particular blend, but rather choosing the right varieties period.


Any use of this article must include the byline or following credit line:
Jochum Wiersma is a small grains specialist, and Doug Holen Jr. is a crops educator. Both are with University of Minnesota Extension.

Media Contact: Catherine Dehdashti, U of M Extension, (612) 625-0237, ced@umn.edu

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