Here are some guidelines for growing wheat to successfully save seed for next year, says Jeff Edwards, Oklahoma Extension small grains specialist.

• Sow enough certified seed each year to provide seed for sowing the following year. This ensures varietal purity and provides access to new varieties.

• Save seed only from weed-free fields and clean all harvest equipment thoroughly before entering seed wheat fields.

• Apply a fungicide and don’t save seed from fields infested with loose smut or common bunt.

• Store seed in a low-moisture environment and protect from insects.

• Always perform a germination test and seed count prior to sowing and adjust seeding rates accordingly.  

• Apply a fungicide or insecticide seed treatment to aid with seedling establishment and survival.

You can apply your own seed treatment, but be sure you get thorough coverage of the seed, says Edwards. There are auger-mounted seed treaters available that can apply a treatment to the seed as it is augured into the drill.

“Read and follow labels carefully as there are many different formulations of seed treatments,” he says. “Some require dilution with water and some do not. Know which system works best for you and how to calculate the cost per unit of active ingredient to accurately compare prices among products.”

Using saved seed is a bigger question in some states than others. In Tennessee, for instance, wheat growers normally use a lot of bin run seed.

“Unless acreage is up significantly elsewhere in the U.S., we usually don’t have a seed supply problem,” says Chris Main, Tennessee Extension cotton and small grains specialist. “Most of our growers who are trying to grow high-yielding wheat buy commercial seed.”

But many grow wheat as a rotation or cover crop, and they are more likely to use bin-run seed.

There are two big concerns about seed wheat this year, and both affect the appeal of bin-run seed, says Kim Anderson, Oklahoma Extension agricultural economist in a recent interview. One concern is the limited supply available while the other is the cost of producing it.

“The cost to produce an acre of seed wheat is about $380,” says Anderson. “Seed producers will have to charge $17 to $20 per bushel for seed wheat (to break even). Producers need to prepare for a short supply of seed wheat and for it to be more expensive than previous years.”

But that doesn’t make turning to bin-run seed a wise strategy, he says.

“The market is very sensitive to quality,” he says. “It wants clean, good test-weight, good-protein-level wheat that can move into the food market.”

That will be hard to produce with farm-saved seed of unproven quality.

“If they do not use quality seed, they are going to limit their ability to get the quality product…and limit the price they get for their crop in 2012,” says Anderson.