We are facing a severe shortage of soft red winter wheat seed for this fall. Wet field conditions last fall caused a decrease in planted acres, and most growers only planted one or two varieties. Consequently, options for planting seed from their own operations are limited.

To make matters worse, the seed production industry, based primarily in the mid South and Southeast, fared even worse, and planted fewer acres than we did in Northeast Texas. Certified seed is in very short supply, and many companies have already sold out their production.

The table below summarizes the top 10 performers in our SRWW variety trials over the past two years. They represent the results on two locations in 2009 (Royse City and Leonard), and two locations in 2010 (Royse City and Howe). All of these varieties have been productive over a two year span, and any of them would be a good place to start in making selections for planting this fall.

To supplement what you have saved in the bin from this past year, we suggest trying to find certified seed of several of these varieties to plant on your farms (at least 3 varieties). If you find certified seed, it will probably be in short supply. Buy whatever you can find, and plant a small acreage.

If you can only get your hands on a small amount of certified seed, you can plant it at a low seeding rate and produce a great deal of seed wheat for 2011 planting. The following table shows how many bushels of wheat can be produced with just 10 bags of certified seed. This information is based on over 30 seeding rate experiments in this region, spanning more than 25 years:

As the table above illustrates, we should be able to produce over 900 bushels of wheat with a little over 8 bushels of certified seed wheat.

There is a very small penalty in yield with low seeding rates. Our long term average yield with just 30 pounds of seed per acre was over 54 bushels per acre. Doubling the seeding rate to 60 pounds only picked up a little over 6 bushels more in yield. Tripling the seeding rate to 90 pounds only produced an additional 2 bushels in grain yield.

Other management inputs also need to be addressed to maximize yields with lower seeding rates. We suggest row placed phosphate and adequate nitrogen to enhance tillering during the fall and winter months. And low seeding rates need to be accompanied with an effective weed control program, since thinner initial stands will take longer to tiller and close the canopy.

Long Term Strategy

The long term strategy for optimizing yields is to stay abreast of variety performance and stability in the region, and be prepared to introduce new high performing varieties into your production system on an annual basis. This is a sound management practice, and it will reduce your risk and maximize your profitability over the long run.

We suggest the following:

• Familiarize yourself with ongoing, unbiased regional research to determine the best performing varieties. We will seek out promising varieties, and evaluate them under Northeast Texas growing conditions. Multiple variety trials will be conducted annually to determine the best adapted varieties, and summarized for your use.

• Spread your risk. Plant at least three proven, high performers every year. Rust race changes and weather variables are a yearly occurrence, so planting multiple varieties will minimize your exposure to these elements.

• Support the certified seed industry. We need to depend on university and industry breeders to develop improved wheat varieties that incorporate all the traits markets desire. This can only be done by supporting their research programs with the purchase of certified seed every year. This will stimulate the development of new and improved varieties, and will allow us to better compete in world markets.