UACES Facebook Division of Agriculture trials aid growers in ‘critical’ wheat variety selection
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Division of Agriculture trials aid growers in ‘critical’ wheat variety selection

Oct. 3, 2023

By Sarah Cato
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Fast Facts:

  • Disease resistance, yield, agronomics important to consider in wheat variety selection
  • Arkansas Wheat Variety Testing Program tests commercially available varieties
  • Results from 2023 available in 2023 Arkansas Wheat Update

(489 words)

(Newsrooms: Download photo of Arkansas wheat)

LITTLE ROCK – In an industry as unpredictable as farming, it’s important for growers to control what variables they can. With wheat production, variety selection can help account for the many unknowns a growing season may bring.

Arkansas wheat field
THE RIGHT FIT Division of Agriculture trials offer data so wheat producers can choose the best variety for their operation. (Division of Agriculture photo.)

Wheat cultivars offer a variety of benefits and potential risks, all of which should be weighed carefully according to Jason Kelley, wheat and feed grains extension agronomist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

“Variety selection is very critical in wheat production and there are many aspects to consider when choosing a variety,” Kelley said. “Agronomics, yield, quality, disease resistance, maturity timing, these are all things to take into account when choosing a variety.”

One of the most important aspects of variety selection is disease resistance, said Terry Spurlock, extension plant pathologist for the Division of Agriculture.

“Wheat disease management in Arkansas typically deals with three diseases, Fusarium head blight, stripe rust and Septoria tritici blotch,” Spurlock said. “However, much of our disease pressure is driven by weather, so disease severity is never really known until we are in the crop year itself. For this reason, we want to do as much as we can to prepare for these big three’ prior to putting a seed in the ground.”

Choosing a variety with resistance to common diseases will save growers money in the long run in more ways than one, Kelley said.

“If you have a variety that’s susceptible to disease, you will likely have to spray a foliar fungicide, costing you money,” he said. “And it probably won’t yield as much as a disease-tolerant variety. We want to look for varieties that have high yields and disease resistance.”

Division tries before you buy

How do growers know which variety best suits their needs? Each year, the Arkansas Wheat Variety Testing Program plants commercially available and experimental lines from companies in five locations across Arkansas, testing for yield performance, agronomic characteristics and disease reaction. The results from commercially available varieties are summed up in the annual Arkansas Wheat Update publication.

“The Arkansas Wheat Variety Testing Program under the direction of John Carlin is the best, and really the only unbiased data to test these varieties in Arkansas,” Kelley said. “Most varieties get tested for two to three years, giving us multiple years of good data. All of this is summed up in the Wheat Update, providing a one-stop shop for growers to assess the different aspect of each variety.”

In addition to yield and agronomics, varieties are also rated for their reactions to ‘the big three” diseases as well as other diseases.

“One can grow a productive wheat crop with varieties not listed in the Wheat Update,” Spurlock said. “Still, choosing a tested variety and planning for ‘the big three’ in advance of planting can help increase the likelihood of a more profitable one.”

Read the September 2023 Arkansas Wheat Update. Learn about the Division of Agriculture’s  Arkansas Crop Variety Testing Program.

To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit Follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @AR_Extension. To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: Follow on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch. To learn more about the Division of Agriculture, visit Follow us on Twitter at @AgInArk.

About the Division of Agriculture

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system. 

The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.  

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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Media contact:
Sarah Cato