The cheapest pest protection available for Southwest wheat growers comes out of the seed bag.

“Variety selection provides the most cost efficient disease and insect management strategy available to growers,” says Travis Miller, Texas A&M Extension agronomist. “Growers should evaluate varieties every year to keep ahead of disease and insect pests. Staying abreast of new developments may help growers avoid disease epidemics.”

Miller discussed some of the best options available, based on recent field trials, during a recent wheat production seminar in Denton, Texas.

“First, growers should look for consistent yields across several years,” Miller says. “They should evaluate their options every year and never rely on just one variety.”

Planting several varieties, possibly with varying maturity groups and disease and insect resistance, will spread production risks, Miller says.

He says recent trials indicate a yield range of 53.8 to 47.4 over a three-year span for hard red winter wheat varieties.

TAM 302 topped the list at 53.8 with a public variety, 2180, second at 53.4. Yield data include three years and multiple locations.

TAM 302 is a moderate late variety with a medium growth habit and is winter hardy.

The 2180 variety is early, with intermediate winter hardiness and a short growth habit.

“Jagger is also looked promising,” Miller says, “but I'm a little concerned about test weight.”

Yield tests averaged 50.6 bushels per acre over various locations and three years.

Jagger is a Kansas State University release.

Coronado, with only one year's data averaged 50 bushels per acre. “That one looks pretty good for north Texas producers,” Miller says.

Coronado is a short, early variety with intermediate winter hardiness. Jagger is a medium, early variety with winter hardiness ranging from tender to intermediate.

TAM 400 produced the highest test weight at 61.3 pounds per bushel. Coronado and Ogallala both averaged 59.4.

TAM 302 shows some disease resistance. It ranges from moderately resistant to moderately susceptible for both leaf rust and barley yellow dwarf virus and is moderately susceptible to stripe rust. The 2180 ranges from moderately susceptible to susceptible for leaf rust, moderately susceptible for barley yellow dwarf virus and susceptible for stripe rust.

Ogallala, from Agripro, was rated moderately susceptible to moderately resistant to leaf rust, moderately susceptible to barley yellow dwarf virus and moderately resistant to moderately susceptible for stripe rust.

“Ogallala showed pretty good leaf rust resistance this year,” Miller says.

Pioneer varieties claim three of the top four spots for best yield in soft red winter wheat varieties, Miller says. Mason, from Agripro is tops with a 63.7 bushel per acre average over three years and multiple locations. Test weight is 58.1.

Pioneer 2571 averaged 63 bushels per acre with a 59.3 test weight. Pioneer 2684 averaged 61 bushels and 59.8 test weight. Pioneer 2566 produced 59.9 bushels and a 58.6 test weight.

All four are medium growth varieties. Mason and Pioneer 2684 are early, and Pioneer 2571 and 2566 are medium. Mason has an intermediate to tender winter hardiness range. Pioneer 2684 is rated intermediate and both 2566 and 2571 are rated hardy.

Miller says Pioneer 25R57 also looks good and has good stripe rust resistance. Coker 9663 is a popular variety, planted “over many acres in the South. I also like Mason but am concerned with cold tolerance. It does show some Hessian fly resistance.”

Miller also cautions growers to exercise caution about where they buy seed to avoid planting seed infected with Karnal bunt.

“We have tested for Karnal bunt in this area and have not found anything, but if we ever get it, it could be worse than it is farther west.

“Do not buy seed from an unknown source,” he says.

rsmith@primediabusiness.com