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Dry year ideal to test drought tolerance of wheat varieties

While hammering agriculture, the historic Texas drought provided a perfect year to test wheat varieties for drought tolerance.

With 2011 going into the record books as one of the driest ever on the High Plains, many dryland wheat acres were abandoned, and even irrigated yields suffered as producers had to allocate water to other crops, notes Brent Bean, Texas AgriLife Extension agronomist, Amarillo.

Bean says insect infestation and disease infections were lower throughout most of the region, and only a few low-lying fields in the southwest Panhandle were damaged from freeze injury. So the biggest contributor to the wheat crop’s demise was the drought.

Key Points

Historic drought sets stage for testing wheat varieties for drought tolerance.

In extreme drought, irrigated wheat didn’t fair much better than dryland.

Texas A&M makes recommendations after looking at several locations.

AgriLife Extension specialists were still able to gain much data from variety trials across the region that will be useful as producers begin thinking about seeding their new wheat crop this fall.

Bean says seven of nine dryland wheat trials were harvested, as were trials at six irrigated locations around the High Plains and the New Mexico State University station near Clovis. Across the region, most harvested wheat fields were planted late on land that had been fallowed in 2010.

Irrigated wheat

Irrigated wheat didn’t fair much better than dryland, Bean says. Yields were down because many producers had to quit watering wheat early to concentrate their irrigation water on establishing corn or cotton.

Compounding the drought conditions in the irrigated variety trials were hot air temperatures during flowering and late freeze damage that pushed yields even lower, Bean says.

The highest average yield of 67 bushels per acre was recorded for the Dimmitt, Texas, trial. Three varieties — TAM 112, Winterhawk and TAM 113 — yielded in the top 25% at five of the six locations.

“This is only the second year we have had Winterhawk, a Westbred variety, in our trials,” Bean reports. “TAM 113 was released this year by Texas AgriLife Research and will not be commercially available until 2012.”

Bean says other top wheat varieties were TAM 11, OKO7209 (an Oklahoma State University experimental), Duster (another OSU wheat) and Bill Brown. Noteworthy also were Hatcher and the Texas AgriLife Research experimental TX05A001188.

Dryland trials

In the dryland trials, the lowest average yield of 12.1 bushels per acre was at Etter and the highest average yield of 34.7 bushels per acre was at the Groom location, Bean reports. All of the dryland locations were on fallowed land.

Three locations in the eastern part of the Texas Panhandle — Groom, Silverton and Perryton — that yielded the highest, greatly benefited from a late fall rain, Bean notes.

Varieties yielding in the top 25% in at least four of the seven locations were TAM 113, TAM112, OKO7209, Armour, Winterhawk and TX05A001188. Other varieties of note were Hatcher, AP 503 CL, OKO7214, TAM 111, Duster and Mace.

“Mace is a Nebraska variety with good wheat streak mosaic tolerance,” Bean says. “This is the second year it has been in our trials, and overall, its yield has been average.”

Bean says varieties are recommended after reviewing their performance at multiple locations over a minimum of three years. Emphasis is placed on the consistency of varieties yielding in the top 25%.

For example, TAM 111 and TAM 112 have each been in the top 25% in 18 of 28 dryland variety trials in the High Plains during the last five years. Their consistent high yield across a range of conditions easily qualifies them as recommended varieties for dryland production, he says.

Other varieties that are recommended for dryland are Hatcher, Endurance, Duster, Bill Brown and Armour, Bean says. Endurance is especially good as
dual-purpose wheat for grazing and grain production. Hatcher and Bill Brown are Colorado State University varieties that tolerate the Russian wheat aphid.

Armour is a Westbred variety making its debut on the recommendation list, the agronomist says. Armour is an early-maturing variety and can be short, although there was no trouble with harvest.

Full and limited irrigation

The varieties recommended for full and limited irrigation are the same as those listed for dryland, with just a couple of exceptions, Bean points out.

“TAM 112 is not recommended for full irrigation only because straw strength can become an issue under high water and nitrogen conditions,” he says. “TAM 304 will work well under full irrigation because of its excellent straw strength and good disease resistance.

“Armour would likely be OK for limited irrigation, but yields have only been slightly above average under full irrigation. TAM 113 does not make the recommendation list only because it will not be available until 2012.”

More information online

For more information, Bean says yield data from previous years, as well as variety descriptions and other information, can be found at the following website under the “Agronomy” link at

Test weights and other information are available by contacting Bean at
or 806-677-5600.

Ledbetter is with Texas A&M Agriculture Communications, Amarillo.


DEAL WITH DROUGHT: The horrific Texas drought allowed Texas AgriLife Extension specialists to determine which wheat varieties have better tolerance for extremely dry conditions.

This article published in the September, 2011 edition of THE FARMER-STOCKMAN.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.