Local producers and seed representatives walked into a wheat field two and one-half miles south of U.S. Highway 50 on Mayfield Road Monday to examine 20 different varieties of the crop.
The test plot, which is planted and monitored through Kansas State University Research and Extension, was the second stop on the 2018 Reno County Wheat Tour. The tour stopped at two test plots — each featuring the same 20 wheat varieties — which showcase how the different strains react to disease and environment.
“We do 50 of these each year,” said Dr. Romulo Lollato, wheat and forages specialist with KSU Agronomy. “The more we learn, the more we can tell producers.”
After studying the plots, KSU releases a summary of the findings, KSU Wheat Disease Specialist Dr. Erick DeWolf said. He expects the summary to be finished around the first week of July.
“It usually comes out by the Fourth of July and is our wheat disease publication,” DeWolf said. “Since Romulo has come on, we’ve added more agronomics, such as straw strength and winter hardiness.”
The test plots in Reno County are replicated plots, which have two rows of each variety planted side by side, one with fungicide applied, and one without. This practice shows how the varieties compare to each other, as well as how they compare to themselves when treated with fungicide.
The plots included wheat varieties from West Bred, Syngenta, Dyna-Gro and more, as well as KSU and Oklahoma State University.
Lollato and DeWolf discussed how the different types of wheat have stood up to the environment in Reno County and statewide, as well as their strengths and susceptibilities regarding disease.
Lollato said dry weather in September and October delayed planting for some, which combined with below-average temperatures throughout April delayed crop development. In Reno County, he estimates the crop is 10 days to two weeks behind its normal level of development.
“The crop is trying to catch up,” Lollato said. “We’ve seen a lot of development over the last two weeks, but it’s still around 10 days to two weeks behind.”
He saw the same issue statewide during the 2018 Wheat Quality Tour during the last week of April.
“Usually when we leave Manhattan we see some heading and as we move toward Colby wheat is in the boot stage around Colby,” Lollato said. “This year when we got to Colby, the wheat was at the first node stage. It was that far behind.”
Wheat in Reno County has also suffered drought stress and freeze damage, coupled with hot, dry weather during grain development.
“These are about three quarters full, so there’s grain in there,” Agronomist Dr. Stu Duncan said. “We could use a couple of those ‘inch and a half’ rains.”
High temperatures during grain development will lead to smaller grain with high protein content and low test weight.
Overall, DeWolf said disease pressure in Reno County was pretty low, although there were reports of stripe rust.
The test plot also featured new releases from KSU, including the Zenda variety, which was created as a replacement for Everest. The Everest variety had been the most widely used variety across the state, popular because of its disease resistance, according to DeWolf.
“Everest had good leaf rust resistance, head blight resistance, among others,” DeWolf said. “It had stripe rust resistance, but since then, that resistance has been overcome and actually become one of the weaknesses for Everest, that’s part of where Zenda comes in.”
The Zenda variety is also a slightly later maturing wheat.
A new release from OSU, which was developed as a replacement to the Gallagher variety was also showcased in the plot. The Smith’s Gold variety is a good grazing wheat, with good Hessian fly resistance and acid soil tolerance, according to Lollato. The variety also has improved green bug and stripe rust resistance over its predecessor.