BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A new hard red winter wheat variety that was more than a decade in the making has the potential to be a top performer in drier areas of the state, South Dakota State University officials say. That could translate into millions of dollars for farmers.
The variety "Ideal" — named for a small farming community in central South Dakota — should be widely available for planting next year. It's not drought-resistant but does seem to produce more grain in drier areas, breeder Bill Berzonsky said.
Hard red winter wheat is typically used to make bread, while other wheat varieties are used for cookies, pastries and pasta. Much of it is grown in more southern states such as Kansas and Oklahoma, but it also is a staple crop in South Dakota. Ideal — which is bred for a more northern growing season — also might be an option for farmers in North Dakota, Nebraska and Minnesota, Berzonsky said.
Berzonsky said if Ideal proves popular enough to be grown on one-fifth of the winter wheat acres in South Dakota and produced 2 bushels more per acre than other varieties, farmers could see a $3.6 million increase in annual revenue.
"The main thing is it has high yield potential," Berzonsky said. "Our tests would indicate that it does well in areas of South Dakota that receive lower rainfall in the spring and summer months."
The variety also might be an option for farmers in wetter areas if the drought that hit this year continues, though farmers might run a higher risk of a diseased crop should there be a sudden change in the weather, Berzonsky said. While Ideal has good resistance to some diseases, it is more susceptible to scab, a common disease brought on by prolonged wet weather during wheat's flowering stage.
David Salmen, who farms in southeastern South Dakota — which had flooding last year but is in drought this year — said farmers look for "anything that will help us in the Dakotas with our (weather) unpredictability."
"I would be anxious to try something in these (dry) conditions," he said.
Tests showed Ideal in drier areas could produce higher yields, or more bushels per acre, than Wesley, the top winter wheat variety in South Dakota, planted on about one-third of the acres, Berzonsky said.
Also, milling and baking tests indicate Ideal might produce better flour than some other varieties, including Overland, the second-most popular winter wheat variety in South Dakota, he said. The tests were coordinated by the Wheat Quality Council.
Ben Handcock, executive vice president of that organization, did not immediately have specific details of the testing but said "I think (Ideal) was pretty well liked by most people who evaluated it."
Breeders began working on Ideal in 2000. It is the first winter wheat variety released by the SDSU Agriculture Experiment Station since 2008.
"It's a long process," Berzonsky said, comparing it to a game of cards. "You shuffle the genetic material and select the best traits to get the best hand possible."