Still, they have made progress, paring down 300 hard red winter wheat lines to 12 with increased nitrogen use efficiency. Test plots include nitrogen rates from zero to 100 pounds per acre, in increments. “We will use the data from the trials to select lines for breeding programs,” Carver said. “We’re also looking at some soft wheat varieties.”

The overall goal is optimistic. “We want to get drought tolerance and nitrogen use efficiency wrapped into one,” Carver said. “That’s not an easy task. Nitrogen use is a complicated trait system in wheat.”

He said a researcher at Stillwater has “found a hot spot in the wheat genome, with GM technology.” Carver says the GM process does not take something from a foreign plant and insert it into the wheat but takes a gene from wheat.

The Tipton station also supports an on-site advanced line breeding program. An experimental variety, OK09125, has shown promise and “looks good over a wide range of environments. We have not released it because of concern over kernel size,” Carver said.

Arnall said identifying nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) in wheat is a challenge. “We have two kinds of NUE, plants that scavenge for nitrogen and plants that make good use of available nitrogen. A perfect combination,” he said, would be a variety that could do both.

He said wheat researchers are fortunate to have the Tipton facility available. “This is the most responsive nitrogen site in the state—when we get moisture to make a yield. The response and uniformity at this location is extremely rare in Oklahoma.”

He uses nitrogen rich (N-rich) strips to evaluate fertility needs. Those strips, fertilized in increments from zero to 100 pounds of nitrogen per acre, indicate in-season how much supplemental nitrogen the wheat needs.