A bin-busting yield of 97.07 bushels per acre was North Dakota’s irrigated spring wheat winner in the 2018 National Wheat Yield Contest.

Entered by Monte Leidenix of Burleigh County, the yield was also fourth best in the entire nation based on the percent increase by which the yield exceeded the most recent five-year USDA county average.

This leads to a favorite question of farmers everywhere. How did he do it?

We called Monte, who farms in South Dakota and North Dakota with spouse Sarah, their son Michael, and their daughter Lauren.

It was the first time the Leidenix family had entered the yield contest.

“Farming is a profession based on the weather and based on luck,” said Monte. “You can do everything right and still end up with nothing, and you can do everything wrong and end up with something, so we’re just thankful we got what we got.”

Far ahead of the 2018 growing season, the Leidenix family decided they wanted to enter the contest. For the past three years, the National Wheat Foundation (NWF) has offered this competition for winter wheat and spring wheat – dryland and irrigated.

The 2019 contest is now underway with three ways to win: high yield, bin buster, and yield percentage increase. Growers interested in the contest can register at www.yieldcontest.wheatfoundation.org.

WestBred wheat will pay the required entry and membership fees for growers who enter their WestBred variety. Additional information can be found at westbred.com/NWYC.

For 2018, Monte talked with his DEKALB corn rep Troy Sayler, who had taken a job promotion to WestBred’s wheat commercial manager. Sayler thought it was a great idea for Monte to enter the irrigated wheat contest and recommended a high yielding variety – WestBred WB9479.

It turned out that WestBred had quite a year at the 2018 National Wheat Yield Contest. WestBred varieties were grown for 15 of the 21 yield winners.

“The primary reason we’re doing so well is we have an intense wheat breeding program that kicks out superior, high-yielding varieties,” said Grant Mehring, WestBred technical product manager for North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota.

The 2018 spring wheat winners in the irrigated category were 1) Larry Carroll, Morrow County, Ore., WestBred with a final yield of 158.93; 2) Keith Gross, Adams County, Wash., WestBred with a final yield of 172.56; 3) Terry Wilcox, Madison County, Idaho, WestBred with a final yield of 193.38; 4) Monte Leidenix, Burleigh County, N.D., WestBred with a final yield of 97.07, and 5) Alex Bishop, Becker County, Minn., WestBred with a final yield of 85.53 bushels per acre.

On dryland, the spring wheat winners were 1) Jon Wert, Hettinger County, N.D., LCS with a final yield of 103.98; 2) Orin Knutson, Marshall County, Minn., WestBred with a final yield of 104.79; 3) Trevor Stout, Latah County, Idaho, WestBred with a final yield of 123.26; 4) Brian Schafer, Hayes County, Neb., WestBred with a final yield of 67.95, and 5) Jason Beechinor, Walla Walla County, Wash., WestBred with a final yield of 115.75 bushels per acre.

Leidenix family story

The pivot irrigated field was 220 acres, and an additional 20 acres were farmed dryland.

“I gave that to my son,” Monte said. “It was dryland that was separated and we tried to see how we would do with that same wheat planted the same way, only it didn’t get to be watered as much.”

The fields were no-tilled. An application of Roundup as well as a Dicamba and 2,4-D mix were applied as a burndown prior to planting, so the fields started out very clean.

In 2018, “we planted later than we wanted,” he continued, “so we were a little disgusted, but Mother Nature was kind to us, and we still turned out okay.”

The drill has a fertilizer tank, and the Leidenix family banded fertilizer next to the seeds.

The seeding rate provided 2.5-3 million heads per acre with a maximum of one tiller per plant – or two spikes per plant, along with strong stems and a good root structure.

“In North Dakota and Minnesota, where we have irrigated wheat, we tend to plant a little bit heavier seeding, and that’s because a lot of the highest yielding wheat varieties do tend to lodge a little bit, and we don’t want lodging at all in irrigated wheat,” said Mehring.

Once the wheat emerged, liquid fertilizer was applied through the pivots. Fungicide was applied at the flag leaf stage via Monte’s sprayer, as was PerfectMatch herbicide to control weeds.

After the wheat headed and began to flower, another fungicide treatment was applied.

About 4 inches of irrigated water was applied throughout the growing season. Rainfall was average.

Because the yield potential was high, Monte applied more liquid fertilizer through the irrigation system with hopes of increasing protein late in the growing season. He thinks the practice was successful because the protein averaged 15.9-16 percent. The non-irrigated wheat had a similar yield, but the protein was 14.8-15 percent.

The wheat was straight combined, and although only a small number of acres are needed for the wheat yield test, the Leidenix family was happy to have many more acres to harvest at a good yield.

For 2019, Monte will be planting WestBred WB9590, and he hopes to have good success again this year.

Mehring says the WestBred Certified varieties are virtually sold out, but it’s not too early to plan for 2019 winter wheat or 2020 spring wheat. He added that Troy Sayler was working with seed suppliers to produce the Registered to Certified seed classes to plant in 2019 for 2020 production.

Said Mehring, “My job is to get trials out and talk with farmers, walk fields and help everyone understand just the right ways to manage these WestBred varieties for success and economic success on their farm.”

After winning a trip to Commodity Classic to learn about raising wheat from national winners, Monte intends to use more inputs to push wheat yields in 2019 and beyond. Mehring agrees with that practice.

“These are WestBred varieties that actually have a very high yield ceiling,” Mehring said, with the reminder that inputs have to make sense economically. “The yield ceiling is so high that we need to start doing practices that are a little bit outside the norm to find their potential.”