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Farmers view wheat varieties

Bread samples made with final product

by: Submitted Photo - Dr. Mike Flowers, OSU Extension cereal specialist from Corvallis, shows different wheat variety trials to local growers and fieldmen.


   Some 20 local growers and fieldmen attended a Wheat Field Day June 22, at the Central Oregon Ag Research Center to view new wheat varieties, hear six experts talk about wheat disease and insect control, and taste-test breads made from different types of wheat.
   Dr. Mike Flowers, OSU Extension cereal specialist from Corvallis, walked growers through test plots at the Madras research center for a firsthand look at what was growing well in Central Oregon.
   The field trials included 45 varieties of winter wheat, such as Skiles, Stephens, Brundage, Goetze, and Tubbs; and 35 varieties of spring wheat, including Alturas, Lassik, Cabernet, Volt, and Summit.
   Stripe rust fungus is one of the biggest problems in wheat, Flowers noted, pointing out varieties like Goetze, that were more susceptible to the disease.
   He commented on the yield potential, protein count, grain quality, disease resistance, standability, and early maturity capability of each variety as the field trials were viewed.
   Dr. Gustavo Sbatella, COARC weed science researcher, spoke on the control of broadleaf weeds in spring wheat. He tested the herbicide product "Carnivore," at different application rates and combinations with other products, and said it showed good control for Kosha, lambsquarter and mustard weeds.
   Infestations of root-lesion nematodes and cereal cyst nematodes were the topic of a presentation by Dr. Dick Smiley, research plant pathologist from Pendleton.
   Passing around a vial of clear-appearing liquid, he noted it contained millions of microscopic nematode parasites.
   The nematodes can't be seen, and neither can the problems they cause in wheat.
   "You can't see symptoms of nematodes without a soil test," Smiley said.
   Root-lesion nematodes feed on roots, weakening wheat plants and making them more susceptible to root rot and other fungus diseases.
   "These nematodes reduce the farm gate value of wheat in the Pacific Northwest by about $51 million annually," he said.
   The cereal cyst nematode is less widespread, but reduces the PNW wheat farm gate value by $4 million annually.
   Controls for nematodes include field sanitation, crop rotation, proper crop nutrition and watering. Plant breeding for wheat with genetic resistance and tolerance is currently being done, but those varieties are not yet available.
   On crop rotation, Smiley said, "A spring barley rotation knocks it down, but a three-year rotation of winter wheat, spring barley and summer fallow is better."
   Effective rotation crops, which are poor hosts for root-lesion nematodes, include barley, flax, safflower, triticale and spring pea. Cereal cyst nematodes only attack wheat, barley and oats, so any broadleaf crop works for a rotation.
   "Chemical and biological controls don't work against these nematodes, so the future is with genetic options," Smiley said, indicating resistant varieties of wheat.
   Dr. Chris Mundt, research plant pathologist from Corvallis, gave an update on wheat diseases.
   "There is a new population of the striped rust fungus that's more aggressive than the old one was, and has been especially bad the past couple of springs," he said.
   "The good news is, there were less losses last year because growers managed it better with fungicides," Mundt said.
   Due to the number of fungi spores, "When you spray is more important than what your spray," Mundt advised, adding, "It's hard to stop once it gets established."
   Mylen Bohle, area extension agronomist, reported on control of the cereal leaf beetle. The beetle populations have been low for the past couple of years, having been knocked down by spray and use of the T. julis wasp, which feeds on larva of the beetles, he said.
   The field day culminated with a tasting of fresh baked breads, made from soft white and hard red wheat, and barley, baked by Dr. Andrew Ross, from OSU, who tests new grain varieties for marketability.
   Some wheat varieties may resist diseases and grow great in the field, but not pass his market quality tests, Ross said. His test kitchen has a tiny flour mill and tiny dough mixer to grind flour from each wheat variety and make cookies or a loaf of bread to test.
   "Buyers want flour with enough dough strength, otherwise it won't make bread or noodles," he said. In the Asian market, white wheats are demanded for noodles. To them, flour with flecks of bran in it looks like it has wheat rust, he said.
   "Out of 30,000 headrows (of wheat trial varieties) 90 percent won't make it out of the fields. We had 4,000 samples in the lab last August and September," he said.
   Ross is also trying to re-establish barley as a more popular food, and brought samples of barley foccacia bread to taste.
   "Barley is a good rotation crop and there's a great market for it," he said.