Knowledge at no costA little-known agricultural outreach program at North Dakota State University Extension plays an important role in the survival of North Dakota’s winter wheat farmers.
By: Will Powell, Agweek
A little-known agricultural outreach program at North Dakota State University Extension plays an important role in the survival of North Dakota’s winter wheat farmers.
Joel Ransom, an NDSU Extension agronomist for cereal crops, has organized the school’s winter wheat trials program since September 2002, but the program has existed for several decades.
Annual winter wheat trials involve testing and analyzing winter wheat seeds in an attempt to accurately predict how the crop will perform under recent seasonal conditions. Ransom says the purpose of NDSU Extension’s winter wheat trials is to evaluate the performance of commercially available winter wheat varieties to help farmers select varieties that will, perform well on their farms.
“We organize this as a service to growers as part of our mandate to provide unbiased information of an agricultural nature,” Ransom says. “We also now include any private varieties that are commercially available.”
Ransom and his team test the genetic properties of various types of winter wheat to reach their conclusions. In 2013, NDSU Extension tested 21 varieties of winter wheat near Carrington.
“Measurements are made on a range of characteristics that have some impact on the performance of the variety. This gives the farmer a sense of how tall the variety will be, whether it will have a lot of straw or less straw or whether it’ll be prone to lodging, which is falling over,” Ransom says.
In addition to plant height, the winter wheat trials measure a plant’s weight, protein level and grain yield, which is important for farmers headed to the local grain elevator.
“Yield would probably be the most important thing on that list,” Ransom says. “If they [farmers] have had a problem getting high-quality wheat, they may say ‘I’m going to take that high-yielding one, but not the highest-yielding one; I’m going to take the one with a little higher protein.’ That would be kind of an iterative process that the farmer could use to select what they want to grow.
“We recommend that they use more than one year’s data if it’s available, because one year is not always going to be descriptive of how that variety will perform.”
Ransom thinks NDSU is the clearest choice to undertake the task because of its expansive agronomy facilities and resources.
“We have quite an efficient network to do this,” Ransom says.