September 01, 2018

Wheat harvest recap: Looking back on the 2018 season

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Harvesting WB9479 in North Dakota. Photo via: Brian Bjork

With winter wheat harvest wrapped up and spring wheat harvest coming to a close, it’s the time of the year where we start to look back on the season. How were your yields? Your protein? What are your plans for next season? We checked in with wheat folks across the northern states to see how harvest has gone.

According to WestBred® wheat Regional Commercial Manager Ryan Weber, farmers in parts of the north saw above-average yields on winter wheat. And with current commodity prices, farmers and seed suppliers are reaping the rewards of a bountiful harvest.

In his role as an RCM, Ryan covers Montana, southern Idaho and surrounding areas of Utah and Wyoming. He works with seed suppliers to make sure the right varieties are being planted in the right locations. In a successful season like this, the importance of Ryan’s role is highlighted as his variety recommendations aim to ”give growers the best opportunity for yield and quality in their wheat.”

For farmer Rob Eggert, harvest results were good but varied. Rob has grown wheat his whole life and explains on his operation in northwest Minnesota, harvest is usually much more consistent. “This year was totally flip-flopped from last year. We started off dry and we got wet; last year we started off wet then we got dry and we stayed dry.” Even considering this unpredictable weather, Rob says his harvest went “surprisingly well.” “The weather has been all over the place,” said Rob. “We had a lot of extra heat when the wheat didn’t need any heat so certain varieties were hurt quite bad by timing of things, but still some came through pretty well,” said Rob.

WestBred wheat Technical Product Manager Trenton Stanger also reports high yields in his region. “A lot of growers have said their harvest has been good to better than average.” Trenton said. “Guys have been really happy with what they’ve been able to produce this year.”

Trenton has helped bring new varieties to the attention of farmers that he believes play a critical role in the successful yields this season. With 36 strip trials spanning his region of Southern Idaho and Montana, Trenton notes growers can evaluate the performance of a particular variety without added risk. “I’ve had a lot of growers, just by experiencing these trials with us, pick up new varieties that did really well and put it on a few of their acres.” Having this knowledge of variety performance sets farmers up for successful yields.

Rob also credits advanced varieties with his successful harvest this season and for being able to stand up to the challenges Mother Nature provided. “The newer WestBred wheat varieties were new to us. There was a lot of excitement going into harvest to see what these new varieties could do.”

In addition to the advantage new technologies and varieties bring, it was also an ideal year in Ryan’s region. “Farmers are buying quality certified seed. We’ve had timely rain and moisture, great growing conditions and the cards just all aligned again this year for winter wheat in Montana and southern Idaho,” said Ryan.

With another harvest in the books, updates for next season are in the works. For Rob, that means working toward more consistent yield results. “Looking forward, we’re moving toward consistency. When you get both ends of the weather spectrum and [the varieties] perform well in both, you have kind of a comfort level,” Rob said. 

Trenton and Ryan both stress the importance of exploring new varieties as growers move to the next season. They also highlight the benefits of not storing seed. According to Ryan, 65% of farmers are reusing seed and missing out on years of new seed technology. “They’ve missed out on all these new varieties that have been launched with new technology, better yields, better quality and disease packages, so it will definitely help them improve their farm by using newer technology,” Ryan explains. He believes with current commodity prices, farmers will be more likely to sell their seed and purchase new certified seed for next season — and that will lead to even higher yields.

Ryan’s final lesson for next season? Growers need to make sure they’re prepared for the increased yields newer varieties are providing and fertilize accordingly. “For example, Keldin is a high-yielding variety and a lot of times, farmers don’t plan for the high yields so they underfertilize it and then they get low protein,” Ryan explains. “Whatever variety you’re using, you need to match the appropriate fertility program to really maximize your yield and protein.”

Overall, farmers have overcome various challenges throughout the season to reap the reward of a successful harvest. From new technologies and varieties to advice and support from their team, wheat harvest wraps up with strong yield results and confidence that will carry over into next season. “I’ve had some guys who have quickly filled up their bins and now they’ve got to find another home for their excess grain they’ve produced,” said Trenton. “It’s a good problem they’re facing.”

What were harvest results like in your region? What changes will you be making for next season? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter, or drop us an email at the.tiller@westbred.com.  

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