Fall wheat seed availability questioned before harvest: Drought, freeze and hail limit supplies

Jun 11, 2013 by Kay Ledbetter
Experts say drought, freeze and hail could cause a scramble for wheat seed this fall. Credit: Texas A&M AgriLife Research photo by Kay Ledbetter

(Phys.org) —The question of wheat seed availability is still to be answered, because none of it is in the bin yet, according to Steve Brown, Texas Foundation Seed manager in Vernon.

"From a seed availability standpoint, for those of you who will be looking for specific varieties, I would talk to your seed dealers now," Brown said. "Some of those guys are already pulling wheat out of South Texas for varieties that perform up here.

"One of the nice things about some of the TAM varieties is they are very broadly adapted. So, some of the same varieties grown south of San Antonio are some of the high input varieties that grow up here in the Panhandle."

He said seed dealers are already scrambling trying to take care of their customers for next year.

"Some of the wheat looks better than it did two and three weeks ago. I have been surprised at what we are seeing as it continues to grow," Brown said. "In the Rolling Plains and south to Abilene where we had some freezes, but not as many as up in the Panhandle, we had a little rain. Some of the guys who stayed with it are going to cut some wheat.

"The problem we have in that part of the state is most of the wheat we will cut will be off of secondary tillers. We have already had temperatures of 104 and 105 degrees in the Rolling Plains, so this wheat is trying to finish in the heat. So my is test weights will be low."

Brown said the State Seed and Plant Board met earlier this week to consider recertification of . In years with a big loss of seed wheat due to , recertification can be used to relax the normal requirements for seed certification.

Recertification was approved, he said, but that does not necessarily solve the problem. In some areas of the state where harvest has been completed, it will be impossible to recertify in those areas unless fields were inspected in advance of harvest.

For recertification to occur, the applicant must be a certified grower or conditioner, he explained. The land where the variety is grown must meet all criteria for seed certification. All application paperwork must be completed and sent to the Texas Department of Agriculture and the field must be inspected in advance of harvest.

He explained any big loss of seed is not a one-year problem; it can be a two-year problem. This is because not only the Certified class is affected, but also the Foundation and Registered classes are affected. The Foundation and Registered classes are the ones used to produce the Certified class which is most typically used by the commercial producer.

Early harvest has proven to have much lower yields and test weights, Brown said. Lower test weights indicate that seed count per pound will be higher. Seed counts will be very important for fall planting so producers can make appropriate determinations of how much seed to plant.

"If you lose that Foundation-registered class in your seed production, then the start-up again takes a lot longer. That recertification generally is more likely to happen when you have other places to go to recertify things. But trying to find a field, especially a dryland field, which would meet certification requirements and has any wheat to harvest, is going to be a problem this year.

"Talk to your seed dealers. Most of them can't tell you what they are going to harvest yet, and I can't tell you what we are going to harvest yet either."

Brown said a list a varieties and their performance, as well as seed dealers, can be found by going online to varietytesting.tamu.edu/wheat/ and www.texasseedtrade.com/cms/.

Dr. Travis Miller, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service program leader for soil and crop science in College Station, said cooler spring weather experienced across most of the state has helped what would have been a 50 to 60 percent loss of the state's wheat yield to be only a 25 to 30 percent loss.

"Although it is still a little speculative at this point," Miller said. "We know we had significant losses – 25 is a conservative estimate and 40 percent plus might be closer."

He said many fields where yields looked marginal after the first freeze events did not receive additional irrigation and will experience higher losses.

Dr. Jackie Rudd, Texas A&M AgriLife Research breeder in Amarillo, said the primary breeding locations that suffered damage this year due to drought and freeze were the Bushland dryland nursery, which suffered heavy losses, and the Chillicothe nursery, which saw 50-60 percent yield loss and a lot of sterility.

"The sterility means we have outcrossing, so we can't go harvest it and think it is self-pollinated, so no seed source there for further breeding development of new varieties," he said.

Bushland irrigated nurseries looked better, but a May 28 hail storm eliminated the rest of it, Rudd said.

"We have a lot of things growing at Castroville, and while we normally don't harvest there, we needed to get what we could," he said. "That field also was broken over by an earlier hail storm, but it was still harvested by hand off the ground and the germplasm was brought back to Amarillo."

Dr. Calvin Trostle, AgriLife Extension agronomist in Lubbock, said as producers scramble around for seed, those who are fortunate to harvest some need to remember the Plant Variety Protection Act.

"Most of these varieties are protected and you have to have permission to do anything other than collecting and cleaning what you can use in your own farming operation," Trostle warned. "You can't sell a protected variety to a neighbor as seed."

Texas Foundation Seed Service is part of AgriLife Research. For more information on the Plant Variety Protection Act and what can and cannot be done with harvested , producers should access AgriLife Extension's "The Plant Variety Protection Act: Information for Texas Small Grains Producers" (E-338), available at http://agrilifebookstore.org.

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