Using certified seed and optimal seed rates can lead to positive gains in yield as well as a farmer's bottom line, according to Troy Sayler, wheat technical project manager for WestBred Wheat.
WestBred, a mainly northwestern-based company until being purchased by Monsanto in 2009, has ramped up research and development of wheat varieties in recent years.
"Now that we're in the wheat market, there's a lot of things that can be done," said Sayler. "Wheat is one of the least 'technified' crops out there. It's one of the core crops globally, and we're dedicated to wheat. We want to make this go."
When Sayler says 'technified,' a grower's initial reaction may be centered around traits, but that's not their initial goal when it comes to WestBred's work at the moment.
"Right now, breeding good quality varieties that fit specific geographical areas are where we're at," he said. "We're about precision in breeding and that's how we're going to go forth in the marketplace."
Offering certified seed is where it all starts and the use of certified seed in the field is the first step to a positive result come harvest time, according to Sayler.
"What is certified seed and why should I use it? If you're using bin run seed, it degrades every year, especially in vigor, and it's highly unpredictable," he said. "I would make an argument that growers who use bin run seed are less likely to be putting on seed treatments. We know seed treatments give you at least a four bushel per acre bump in yield."
With certified seed, the big advantage is the fact its lab tested.
"The state gets involved," said Sayler. "They're doing checks and we're doing ours. There's minimal weed seeds in there and it's professionally conditioned. Looking at it from a farmer's perspective, they're not tying up bins with seed and in the end it gives them a bushel increase."
When it comes to optimal seed rate, Sayler said WestBred is approaching wheat much like row crops where population is a key factor.
"Population is everything in corn," he said. "Corn responds to different styles of management – plant population, seeding depth, just fungicides, nutrient management – so why wouldn't it apply to wheat as well? Why are we just dropping it in the ground and not thinking too hard on populations?
"We want to make specific recommendations for a farmer's specific geographic area," he continued. "We'll find which variety works best and when a grower walks into one of our dealers they can get a prescription emailed or a hard copy saying what population to seed at and what variety to choose from."
WestBred hopes to keep pushing forward with wheat, especially with protein stability in different environments.
"We're getting pretty high yields in North Dakota this year. I talked to a grower pulling off 80 bushel wheat, but the protein was around 13.5. What if we had protein stability where under all environments, whether it was 30 bushel wheat or 80 bushel wheat, we were getting protein around that 14.5 mark? That's the kind of vision we're looking for," Sayler concluded.