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By Kay Ledbetter/Texas A&M AgriLife—
Texas A&M AgriLife wheat research and variety trials did not take a break during
the COVID-19 pandemic. But it was not possible to conduct a traditional May
wheat field tour, so Texas A&M AgriLife faculty across the state are bringing fields
to producers – virtually.
The 2020 Virtual Wheat Tour is a combination of videos from across the state
that allow producers to view the field trials and hear the latest in research, said
Fernando Guillen, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service statewide small
grains and oilseed crops specialist, College Station.
Winter wheat uniform variety trials, or UVT, were planted at 23 sites across the
state in 18 different geographic locations to evaluate lines of wheat under both irrigated
and dryland conditions, Guillen said.
In the Rolling Plains, there were trials under dryland conditions near Abilene,
Chillicothe, Munday and San Angelo. They included 31 varieties – five TAM varieties,
five experimental TAM lines, five from other universities and 16 from private
industry. One location, Chillicothe, was impacted by freeze and hail damage.
The plots are a collaboration of AgriLife Extension agronomists and county
agents as well as Texas A&M AgriLife Research’s two wheat breeders, Jackie Rudd,
Ph.D., Amarillo, and Amir Ibrahim, Ph.D., College Station.
Guillen said the UVT include different varieties and experimental lines developed
by Texas A&M AgriLife, as well as varieties from other universities and private industry.
The results are used to make sound variety recommendations to producers in
the different growing regions by way of an annual “Picks list.” The 2020-2021 list
will be posted in early August.
The best materials placed in the Picks list are selected based on a careful evaluation
of grain yield, disease and insect package, end-use quality and stability.
Guillen said based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture report from May, approximately
80% of winter wheat was in fair condition or better. Only 21% was
listed as poor or very poor.
Rudd said the weather has definitely provided the most optimum conditions to
find the hardiest varieties. “The reason our varieties are such strong performers under
stress is because they have been bred and selected under stress,” he said.
In 2018, there was almost no rain and 2019 there was a lot of rain and good yields.
Now in 2020, the rains were in the middle – decent early rains and then some snow
through February and March, before they shut off. “This gives us a good diversity
of what we need when looking at different germplasm. Since breeding is a long
multi-year process, something that can do really well in all three years are definitely
keepers,” Rudd said.
He said many of the plots saw freeze and hail damage and then recent high winds
caused some shattering in wheat lines that were not bred for the High Plains.
“Our target environment is a tough place, and we need lines that will survive all
these conditions,” Rudd said. “There are several experimental lines coming through
the pipeline that we feel very good about. What we have in the pipeline are better
than the existing varieties. The process works.”