Foundation research

NAWG, the foundation’s research seeks to show that growing wheat is a win-win-win

WASHINGTON, DC, USA — An ongoing research project aims to prove that properly managed wheat of specific varieties can simultaneously be high yielding, high quality and highly profitable for the producer.

The project will run over the next three years under the auspices of the Wheat Action Plan, created collaboratively by the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG), the National Wheat Foundation and key partners from several segments of the wheat industry. wheat. The group shaped the project at an industry roundtable held in January to identify priority activities that build on existing programs such as the National Wheat Yield Competition, Wheat 105 and a nutrition program by wheat.

“Historically, a lot of people have said that high yield doesn’t equal high quality, and farmers were paid based on yield, by the bushel rather than quality,” said David Cleavinger, president of the foundation. “We’re trying to show that there are ways to have both, and hopefully over time we can change the perception.”

The first phase of the project will study wheat production using intense agronomic practices and determine if high-yielding wheat can also be high-quality wheat. The project mainly involves the collection and compilation of data on the return on investment of inputs for wheat crops. Much of this data has already been collected. A research intern will be responsible for contacting land-grant universities, farm management programs and independent businesses to gather information on the country’s largest wheat-growing areas. Gaps in data from outside sources will be filled in with input data from past participants of the Wheat Yield Contest.

The National Wheat Foundation, based in Washington, DC, USA, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, was incorporated on July 6, 1977 to “advance the science of wheat; advancing the conservation of natural resources; developing new uses and new markets for US wheat; and to develop educational programs to promote wheat and its related industries,” the foundation’s website states. Today, farmers, millers, bakers and agribusiness representatives form a nine-member board that governs the foundation, which is managed by NAWG staff, the foundation’s sole member.

The foundation board expects to see the results of the data project by the end of the summer. If the project provides evidence that certain wheat varieties under conscious management can produce high quality wheat in high yield volume, the foundation plans to spread the word to growers building on projects such as the Yield Contest wheat.

“Through the National Wheat Yield Contest, we’ve discovered that there are early adopters of ideas and technologies that are participating,” said Cleavinger, a former NAWG chairman who also sits on Environmental Defense’s agriculture advisory board. Fund, based in Washington. “And farmers are known to go to coffee shops, talk to neighbors to see what works. In this competition, participants said they had tried specific inputs or management techniques on a small plot, and that it worked, so they spread the methods throughout their farm.

“We’ll be looking at quality metrics for future wheat yield competitions, and with these projects happening at the same time, we can also say ‘see, these are the results we got, and these methods will help growers to more successful”. ”

The foundation and its partners clearly aim to make wheat a more profitable crop for producers. Low returns on investment led to a decline in wheat acreage for many years as farmers turned to more lucrative commodities. In United States Department of Agriculture all-wheat harvested acres records dating back to 1866 (when 15.4 million acres were harvested), the United States saw peaks at 75.9 million acres. acres in 1950 and a record 80.6 million acres in 1981. By 2020, all – Wheat harvested area was down 43.2 million acres, or 54%, from the 1980 record at 37.39 million acres. Planted acreage peaked in 1981 at 88.3 million acres. In 2020, the area planted to all wheat was half the 1980 record at 44.4 million acres.

The second phase of the project will be carried out over the next three years under the direction of a working group made up of producers, millers, researchers, agronomists, the Wheat Quality Council and US Wheat Associates.

The project managers selected durum red winter wheat as the first class of wheat to study for feasibility and practicality reasons.

“A project of this magnitude has to start somewhere, and funding was a factor since the foundation has a set amount of dollars to spend,” Cleavinger said. “With a harsh red winter, there were already plots available to launch the project.”

The quality targets recommended by the WQC for the hard red winter will be used to measure grain samples taken at harvest from plots of the same variety grown in the same way. Test plots are located at Winfield United Answer Plot locations in South Dakota and North Dakota and Kansas State University plots in Kansas. Input levels will serve as a variable, comparing low inputs which theoretically generate lower yields with high inputs resulting, in theory, higher yields. Samples will be taken.

Samples taken from replicate plots will be combined into a 6-pound sample for testing at the Wheat Marketing Center in Portland, Oregon, USA, and the Wheat Quality Lab in Manhattan, Kansas, USA. The quality aspects to be tested are whole grain moisture, protein, test weight, falling numbers, farinograph results using a 300 gram bowl, flour moisture and pound bread.

Those overseeing the project hope to have the first results of the harsh red winter study by December. Next year, they hope to expand the hard red winter wheat study area to include Oklahoma and begin testing plots of hard red spring wheat.

“Over time, we plan to go through all the different classes of wheat,” Cleavinger said. “But what is considered hard red winter quality is different from spring red and soft wheats, so the Pacific Northwest has different quality parameters than we have in the south.”

Cleavinger is a fifth-generation producer who operates a 3,500-acre irrigated farm and ranch in the Texas panhandle near Wilderado.

The foundation’s project will offer about 140 different test plots, but the funding could limit the scope of the research, as lab testing of a sample costs about $250.

“It’s a learning process for all of us,” he says. “We hope this is the first of many years to come of research that will ultimately increase wheat quality numbers, where millers and bakers will see that wheat growers are making choices that will result in higher great profitability, both on our side and on theirs. We see it as “we are a team”. It is not a competition. What we grow, they use in their end products. If we can get all American farmers to grow quality wheat, it will increase profitability for everyone. Millers and bakers are key as we move forward with these projects, so we hope they will join in our efforts to ensure they get a quality product in the end, because we all need to succeed.