Michigan Wheat Program in Partnership with MSU releases high-management results from the 2020 MSU Wheat Performance Trials

Lansing, Mich.  (August 3, 2020) – Making plans to plant wheat this fall?  If so, you’ll want to check results of the high-management trials funded by the Michigan Wheat Program.  For the 8th consecutive year, the Michigan Wheat Program has partnered with Michigan State University to have a high-management component as part of the MSU Wheat Performance Trials. Those trial plots – located on seven farms in Michigan – were harvested in July, and results are now available.

Farmers will certainly want to study results of the 113 different varieties tested in plots across Michigan before making seed purchasing decisions for planting this fall, said MSU wheat specialist and trial researcher Dennis Pennington.

“Over the last eight years, we have developed a pretty extensive body of data on high-management wheat research including these trials, that supports the Michigan Wheat Program’s focus on high-management production and an increased bottom line for growers,” said Bill Hunt, chairman of the nine-member Michigan Wheat Program board and a wheat farmer and owner of Hunt Farms, Inc., in Davison. “We all know that just because you can add additional yield through additional steps, it does not mean that you are increasing your bottom line. The goal of this research is to allow growers to make the comparison of their style of management with the variety performance under different management conditions.”

“The results of this research have been very interesting. As I have run the numbers, it shows that some wheat varieties do not return the funds invested in a high management situation,” said Dr. Eric Olson, MSU wheat breeder. “What makes this program so effective is our high-management plot comparisons plus farmers’ willingness to experiment on their own farms, along with Michigan’s unique climate. We really have a partnership that is helping drive increased productivity, profitability and quality in Michigan.”

Results of the 2019-2020 research plots in a side-by-side comparison in Tuscola County found that across all 113 varieties, high-management techniques had a mean average of 5.8 bushels more per acre this year. A handful of varieties performed 10 to 12 bushels/acre better.

“Every wheat farmer in Michigan should be looking at their farm management and how the various varieties respond to high management to make the decision as to what is the best variety for his or her farm,” Hunt said. “The goal of this project is to provide yet another tool for growers to help them stay on the cutting edge of production.”

This year’s Performance Trials include 62 commercial wheat varieties and 51 experimental wheat seed lines.  The seed lines were developed by 13 organizations, including private sector seed companies, the Michigan Crop Improvement Association and Michigan State University.

“When selecting varieties, it’s important to look at multi-year data from locations that are closest to the soil type and conditions you have on your farm,” commented Olson. “Farmers should study individual varieties across all the parameters evaluated in the trials including yield, test weight and disease ratings.  This report is an unbiased, scientifically-based evaluation of varieties in various Michigan regions.”

“This data is meant to give Michigan farmers a ‘leg up’ over their competition in other states. The report itself is a valuable tool to help farmers make decisions about which varieties to plant based on their performance in different management situations,” Pennington said. “If you are a high-management farmer, you will want to review those varieties that do best under high management. If you are not utilizing high-management you will want to study those varieties that do not need high management to flourish and have a strong disease resistance package.”

Wheat trial details

MSU’s wheat research team has planted wheat trial plots for more than 30 years. During the 2019-2020 growing season, research plots were planted on private farmland in seven Michigan counties and the MSU Research Farm. The counties were: Gratiot, Ingham, Huron, Lenawee, Montmorency, Sanilac and Tuscola.

This year’s trials at a private farm in Tuscola County had both conventional and high-management plots, to create a “same farm” comparison.

Michigan farms hosting the 2019-2020 trials included:

  • Crumbaugh Legacy Farms of St. Louis (Gratiot County);
  • Darwin Sneller of Owendale (Huron County);
  • MSU Research Farm of Mason and MSU Fusarium Head Blight Nursery of Lansing (both Ingham County);
  • Woods Seed Farm of Britton (Lenawee County);
  • Todd Ableidinger of Hillman (Montmorency County);
  • JGDM Farms of Sandusky (Sanilac County); and
  • Stuart Bierlein of Reese (Tuscola County).

Due to heavy rainfall resulting in severe water damage, the Lenawee and Gratiot County locations were not harvested.  Those sites were planted in the fall and managed properly all growing season long, but the damage was just too severe to publish data from these sites.

High-management wheat plots included an additional 30 pounds of nitrogen per acre (28% nitrogen), as well as Delaro® fungicide tank-mixed with herbicide and applied at Feekes 6.0, and Prosaro® fungicide at the average flowering date in each location, Pennington said.

“At its August meeting in a couple of weeks, the Michigan Wheat Program board will take a deeper dive into results of the 2020 Wheat Performance Trials including high-management treatments, and will consider whether to continue this project into the coming 2020-2021 season,” said Jody Pollok-Newsom, executive director of the Michigan Wheat Program.

“There is a wealth of knowledge in the report and I know the board is very proud of playing this important role in advancing knowledge about high-management wheat production here,” said Pollok-Newsom. “From the very beginning, the board has been focused on this project and helping growers determine what is the best variety for their farm, their soil and their management style. We know it’s not a one-variety fits all approach for growers and that they need diversity to get the right mix for their farms.”

Results of the 2020 trials, as well as the prior six years of high-management data is available at www.miwheat.org under the Research and High-Management tabs. The 2020 data may also be accessed on the home page under “What’s Hot.” MSU researchers and the Michigan Wheat Program recommend reviewing at least three years of trial research when making decisions for your farm.

The Michigan Wheat Program is funded by about 5,000 farmers who grow wheat in at least 78 of Michigan’s 83 counties. The MWP board seeks to promote the state’s wheat industry by funding and supporting the strategic priorities of wheat farmers working with input suppliers, seed producers, millers, end users and consumers.  Research on wheat production practices and grower education has been an early priority for the organization.