Things have changed in the wheat industry. Looking at last year’s varieties of spring wheat available to growers, there are over 50 possible selections that are available in Saskatchewan. I don’t see this number going down so it becomes important to understand what your choices are for wheat varieties and find the one that has the most potential on your farm. It’s not an easy task, but here are a few guidelines that may help make the process easier. In the north country, there are a lot of varieties that are not usable in my mind because of our season length. Extending the season length of a wheat variety can result in higher yields but the risk from frost and weather damage goes up. Growing feed wheat is not as profitable as growing quality wheat. Frost damage lowers the price of the wheat that is for sale and limits the potential markets. Early maturing varieties have value. That is why maturity is my first criteria for selection of wheat. Potential dollars per acre that a wheat variety can generate is the second factor that should be looked at for any wheat variety that may be used on your farm. In general, CPS and white wheat’s have to yield more because they have a lower price in the market place. For soft white and CPS wheat’s, they usually have to yield about 20% more than hard red spring wheat’s to make them more profitable. This year, the yield advantage needs to be a little less because of the pricing spread. Agronomics of a wheat variety is something that must be looked at always. There are varieties that have resistance to wheat midge and fusarium head blight. There are varieties that have herbicide resistance. Sprouting and lodging resistance are very important in our wetter climate. Loose smut, bunt, stripe rust and leaf spot resistance are available in some varieties. Knowing what issues are in your fields will help pick which varieties can improve the yield on your farm. If an agronomic trait is available and the yields are equal with a specific variety, I will always recommend taking the agronomic trait. Finally, growers must look at the markets that are available to them. Highest yielding and highest price are important but so is having the ability to sell your wheat at a time that is suitable for your operation. With the contracts that are available in the wheat industry, more options should come available to growers as to when they sell their wheat. This tool can become very important in developing a cash flow opportunity for an operation. Selecting wheat has become more complex but the potential for growing a profitable crop has increased significantly. For many years, wheat was a filler crop so that we could get back to growing peas and canola which were our profit centers. Wheat is now one of most important crops on our farms. Take the time to select the variety that fits on your farm.
By Dave Cubbon, P Ag