Michigan Wheat Program in Partnership with MSU releases high-management results from the 2021 MSU Wheat Performance Trials

Lansing, Mich.  (July 30, 2021) – Farmers planting wheat this fall will want to check the just-released results of the 9th consecutive year of high-management trials funded by the Michigan Wheat Program, which are part of the MSU Wheat Performance Trials.  Those trial plots – located on seven farms in Michigan – were harvested in late July.  Results are available now on the Michigan Wheat Program website at miwheat.org/research/high-management-results.

For more than 30 years, Michigan State University has been conducting Wheat Performance Trials.  And for nine years, the Michigan Wheat Program has partnered by providing funding and resources to support plot trials to see how new varieties perform in high-management production practices.

Wheat farmers should consult the report to learn more about the 114 different varieties tested across Michigan, and review the side-by-side results for these varieties under conventional and the high-management approach, according to MSU wheat specialist and trial researcher Dennis Pennington. Pennington completed harvest of the plots in mid-July and finalized the report this week.

“The Michigan Wheat Program has supported the high-management research plots for nearly a decade now, and our board feels confident that the data we’ve compiled support the high-management approach to production which, in turn, grows the bottom line for our wheat farmers,” said Jeff Krohn, chairman of the nine-member Michigan Wheat Program board and a wheat farmer in Owendale.

“While every crop input doesn’t make sense for wheat, we believe the data allows growers to compare high-management with traditional production practices to consider how varieties would perform on their farm, under their management program,” Krohn said. “The key is to find the varieties that work best for you.”

“As a wheat breeder, I always look forward to seeing the plot research results in various locations around the state. 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. “Some varieties particularly respond to high-management production practices and others do not. That’s the value in 30 years of plot trials and now nine years of high-management research.”

Results of the 2020-2021 research plots in a side-by-side comparison in Tuscola and Isabella Counties found that across all 114 varieties, high-management techniques had a mean average of 7.4 bushels more per acre this year. A handful of varieties performed better by 14-20 bushels/acre.

“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,” said Dennis Pennington, MSU wheat specialist. “The goal of this project is to provide a data tool for growers to consider to improve production and quality in their location.”

This year’s Performance Trials include 63 commercial wheat varieties and 51 experimental wheat seed lines. The seed lines were developed by 15 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 on your farm,” Olson said. “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 new 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.”

Wheat trial details

MSU’s wheat research team has planted wheat trial plots for more than 30 years. During the 2020-2021 growing season, research plots were planted on privately-owned farms as well as the MSU Research Farm.

Michigan farms hosting the 2020-2021 trials included:

  • Hauck Seed Farm of Rosebush  (Isabella County);
  • Darwin Sneller of Owendale  (Huron County);
  • MSU Mason Research Farm 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/Micah Laux of Reese  (Tuscola County).

High-management wheat plots included an additional 30 pounds of nitrogen per acre (28% nitrogen), as well as Quilt Xcel® 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, the Michigan Wheat Program board will take a deeper dive into results of the 2021 Wheat Performance Trials including high-management treatments, and will again consider whether to fund this project for a 10th straight year,” said Jody Pollok-Newsom, executive director of the Michigan Wheat Program.

“There is a wealth of information in the report and I know the board is very proud of playing our role in advancing knowledge about high-management wheat production,” 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 2021 trials, as well as the prior eight years of high-management data is available at www.miwheat.org under the Research and High-Management tabs. The 2021 report is also linked under the “What’s Hot” column on the home page. Questions about the report should be directed to Dennis Pennington, MSU wheat specialist at pennin34@msu.edu.

The Michigan Wheat Program is funded by about 8,000 farmers who grow wheat in at least 50 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.