Whether you’re planting winter wheat for maximum yields, for fall and winter grazing or for best double-crop results next spring, choosing a proven variety for your growing area will likely boost your overall wheat performance and production goals.
University small grains specialists encourage growers to shoot for varieties that have resistance and tolerance to disease and insects that can reduce yields and kernel quality.
Of course, variety selection for Southern production will vary, depending on whether it’s in the High Plains or Rolling Plains, Delta or Mid-South, Alabama or Georgia, or northward to the Carolinas.
David Gunter, Clemson University Extension specialist, says the ideal variety would have a “5-star” rating: one-consistently high yield potential; two-high test weight; three-Hessian fly resistance; four-resistance to leaf rust, mildew and glume blotch; and five-straw strength.
“Five-star wheats are rare for South Carolina conditions,” he says. “We usually settle for three to four out of five. Moderate height is also desirable, except for straw production, to reduce lodging and residue for double-cropping.”
Diversity is recommended to spread risk. “Try at least two to three of the top varieties for your area depending on your acreage,” Gunter says. “Variations in pest severity and weather conditions will favor one variety over another in any given year. When trying a new variety for the first time, you should usually keep the majority of your acreage in a proven performer.”
Gunter adds that crop maturity is important to help dodge late spring freezes. “Maturity can be defined in different ways,” he says. “Depending on the growing season, a medium maturity variety is often harvest-ready within two to three days of an early variety planted on the same date.
“The most important consideration is that early varieties will joint and head earlier. Therefore, early varieties are more susceptible to stem freeze in March and head freeze in April if planted too early.”
He says newer varieties recommended for the Carolinas area include: AGS 2035 and 2038; Dyna-Gro Baldwin; Pioneer 26R20 and 26R41; Progeny 125 and Coker 9553.
“In areas in South Carolina where Hessian fly pressure has increased the last couple of years, Pioneer 26R41 seemed to hold up well in grower’s fields last spring,” Gunter says.
University of Georgia Extension specialists also list numerous new and old varieties in their 2013-2014 wheat production guide. They include: AGS 2060, 2038, 2026 and 2035; UniSouth Genetics 3555: Dyna-Gro Baldwin, Oglethorpe and 9171; Southern States 8641; Fleming; Jamestown; Terrell LA754, TV8525, TV8535, TV8448 and TV8861; and Syngenta Arcadia.
Gunter says resistance to Hessian fly has been a goal of wheat breeders. And varietal resistance has worked well in suppressing Hessian fly in South Carolina and other areas. “But Hessian fly is a moving target,” Gunter says, adding that farmers should look for either “Good” or “Good +” ratings when seeking varieties with Hession fly resistance.
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“If a previously resistant variety fails on your farm, you will need to protect it with insecticide or change varieties in the future,” he says.
Planting winter wheat normally is recommended from 10 days to two weeks before the first frost. Planting dates will also vary, depending on how far north you farm. For example, Mississippi State University Extension says in north and central Mississippi, planting is recommended between Oct. 15 and Nov. 10. In the Mississippi Delta, it’s Oct. 20 through Nov. 15. South Mississippi is Nov. 1-25. And near the coast is Nov. 15 through Dec. 10.
MSU Extension notes that winter wheat grown for grain should be planted early enough to establish seedlings and begin tillering in the fall before winter causes the plants to enter dormancy.
If the objective is to grow small grains for fall and winter grazing, begin planting about four to six weeks before the frost date, if adequate soil moisture is available, MSU says.
Gunter says that for best results, the use of certified seed is recommended. “It provides a level of insurance against poor germination, seed-borne diseases and weeds,” he says. He adds that growers should follow laws regarding seed saved for replanting.
“Varieties covered under the plant variety protection act (PVP) can only be saved for seed by the grower for use on their own farm,” he says. “Patented varieties cannot be saved for seed.”
Many other wheat varieties are recommended by other state Extension specialists. Check with your regional Extension office for information on which varieties, old and new, should work in your area.