2010 Organic Winter Wheat Variety Trials – Maine & Vermont
Ellen Mallory, Heather Darby, Thomas Molloy, Erica Cummings, Katherine McPhee
In 2010, the University of Maine and University of Vermont began a series of trials evaluating varieties of hard red winter wheat to identify those that perform well in northern New England under organic production. This publication presents results for winter wheat varieties. A separate publication is available for spring wheat varieties.
In Maine, trials were established at two locations: the University of Maine Rogers Farm Forage and Crop Research Facility in Old Town and Sites Farm, a private farm in Athens. In Vermont, these trials were established at the Borderview Research Farm in Alburgh and at Cornell’s University’s Willsboro Research Farm in Willsboro, NY. This collaborative work was funded by a grant from the USDA Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative to improve bread wheat production in our region.
TRIAL DESIGN AND VARIETIES
The experimental design was a randomized complete block with four replications, which means that each variety was planted in four separate plots at each location. The winter wheat varieties that were evaluated are listed in Table 1. All are hard red types except for two hard white and one soft white type. Only the hard red types were included in the statistical analyses. Hard types of wheat are preferred for bread flour.
|Winter Wheat Variety||Type†||Origin and Year of Release‡||Seed Source|
|AC Morley||HR||Canada||C&M Seed, Canada|
|Alliance||HR||NE, 1993||USDA-ARS, NE|
|Arapahoe||HR||NE, 1998||Albert Lea Seed House, MN|
|Bauermeister||HR||WA, 2005||Washington State Univ.|
|Borden||MHR||Canada, 1983||Semican, Canada|
|Camelot||HR||NE, 2008||USDA-ARS, NE|
|Expedition||HR||SD, 2002||Albert Lea Seed House, MN|
|Harvard||HR||Canada||Agri-Culver Seeds, NY|
|Jerry||HR||ND, 2001||North Dakota State Univ.|
|Mace||HR||NE, 2008||USDA-ARS, NE|
|Maxine||HR||Canada, 2001||C&M Seed, Canada|
|Millennium||HR||NE, 1999||USDA-ARS, NE|
|Overland||HR||NE, 2006||USDA-ARS, NE|
|Redeemer||HR||Canada||C&M Seed, Canada|
|Red Fife||HR||Heritage var., Canada, 1860||Butterworks Farm, VT|
|Roughrider||HR||ND, 1975||North Dakota State Univ.|
|Wahoo||HR||NE, 2000||USDA-ARS, NE|
|Wesley||HR||NE & SD &WY, 2000||USDA-ARS, NE|
|Zorro||HR||Canada||C&M Seed, Canada|
|Anton||HW||NE, 2008||USDA-ARS, NE|
|MDM||HW||WA, 2005||Washington State Univ.|
|Xerpha||SW||WA, 2008||Washington State Univ.|
|† HR = hard red, MHR = medium hard red, HW = hard white, SW = soft white.
‡ Year of release was not always available.
Seasonal precipitation and temperature recorded at the Rogers Farm Forage and Crop Research Facility Old Town, ME and weather stations in close proximity to the Vermont and New York trials are shown in Table 2. Weather data for a site closer to Athens than Old Town were not available. Weather in 2010 was ideal for growing wheat. Mild conditions during the winter and an early spring caused the wheat to reach major developmental stages 1-2 weeks earlier than usual. From planting to harvest, there was an accumulation of 3427 Growing Degree Days (GDD) in Old Town, 5094 GDDS in South Hero, and 5189 GDDS in Willsboro.
|Location||September 2009||October 2009||March||April||May||June||July||Total|
|Old Town, ME|
|Total Precipitation (in.)||1||6‡||5||2||2||4‡||2||22|
|Departure from Normal||-3||2||1||-1||-2||0||-1||-2|
|Average Temperature (°F)||56||43||37||46||56||62‡||71||—|
|Departure from Normal||1||-2||6||4||2||-1||2||—|
|Growing Degree Days§||700||334||164||426||726||857‡||1182||4389|
|South Hero, VT|
|Total Precipitation (in.)||4||5||3||3||1||5||4||25|
|Departure from Normal||1||1||1||0||-2||1||1||3|
|Average Temperature (°F)||58||44||38||49||60||66||74||—|
|Departure from Normal||-3||-5||7||6||3||0||3||—|
|Growing Degree Days||771||396||229||521||854||1019||1305||5095|
|Total Precipitation (in.)||1||2||3||2||1||5||2||16|
|Departure from Normal||-3||-2||2||1||-2||2||-1||-4|
|Average Temperature (°F)||60||47||39||50||60||66||74||—|
|Departure from Normal||1||-1||10||8||6||0||4||—|
|Growing Degree Days||816||427||239||533||876||1004||1294||5189|
|† Based on National Weather Service data from cooperative observer stations in close proximity to field trials available at http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/crn/report.
Historical averages are for 30 years (1971-2000) available https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cdo-web/datatools/normals.
‡ Values are incomplete due to missing or suspect data.
§ Base 32°F
Plots were managed following practices similar to those used by farmers in New England (see Table 3).
|Location||Rogers Research FarmOld Town, ME||Sites FarmAthens, ME||Borderview FarmAlburgh, VT||Willsboro Research FarmWillsboro, NY|
|Soil type||Melrose & Elmwood fine sandy loam||Adams loamy sand||Benson rocky silt loam||Kingsbury silt clay loam|
|Previous crop||Mixed vegetables/sweet corn||Winter rye sod||Reed canary and alfalfa||Fallow|
|Fertility source||Solid dairy manure||Layer chicken manure||Plowed in sod||Plowed in sod|
|Target nitrogen rate (lbs/ac)||70||70||70||70|
|Row spacing (in)||6.5||6.5||6||6|
|Seeding rate (seeds/ft2)†||30||30||30||30|
|Harvest area (ft2)||4′ x 34′||4′ x 34′||5′ x 20′||4′ x 13.5′|
|Tillage operations||Moldboard plow,seedbed conditioner||Moldboard plow, seedbed conditioner||Fall plow, disc, & spike-toothed harrow||Fall plow, disc, & spike-toothed harrow|
|† The target seeding rate was calculated to achieve the same plant density for each variety. This translated to 70-140 lbs seed/acre (average 113), and depended on the seed weight of each variety.
‡ Four replicates were planted but the fourth block was compromised by soil erosion so results were not included in the analysis.
Rogers Research Farm – Old Town, ME – The trial was conducted on two nearby fields both of which had been in annual crop production for more than 20 years. Sweet corn and mixed vegetables were grown on these fields the year prior to planting. In early September 2009, the fields were prepared using a moldboard plow and seedbed conditioner. Solid dairy manure was applied at a rate of 20 tons/ac on September 22 and immediately incorporated with a Perfecta harrow. The plots were seeded with an Almaco Cone Seeder on September 24, 2009 and harvested with an Almaco SPC20 plot combine on July 20, 2010.
Sites Farm – Athens, ME – The field used in the trial in Athens had been in a continual winter rye forage rotation for more than 5 years. In early September 2009, the fields were prepared using a moldboard plow and seedbed conditioner. On September 11, chicken manure (from an egg laying operation) was applied at a rate of 4 tons/acand then incorporated with a spring-tine harrow on the same day. A spring-tine harrow was used for final seedbed preparation a day before planting. The plots were seeded with an Almaco Cone Seeder on September 25, 2009 and harvested with an Almaco SPC20 plot combine on July 23, 2010.
Borderview Research Farm – Alburgh, VT – The Alburgh site had been in perennial forages (reed canary and alfalfa) for the previous 10 years. In the spring of 2009, the area was moldboard plowed. In August, the field was disked and spike tooth harrowed to prepare for planting the winter wheat. The plots in Alburgh were seeded with a Kincaid Cone Seeder on September 26, 2009. Grain plots were harvested with an Almaco SP50 plot combine on July 21, 2010.
Willsboro Research Farm – Willsboro, NY – Planting of winter wheat at the Willsboro location followed three years of alfalfa/timothy sod. The sod was plowed in August 2008 and fallow prior to planting. The field was dragged twice during the fallow period to knock down the alfalfa and perennial grasses. The plots were seeded on September 25, 2009 with a custom-made eight-row cone planter and harvested on July 26, 2010 with a Hege plot combine.
MEASUREMENTS AND METHODS
Flowering date was recorded for each variety where possible. Once the wheat reached physiological maturity, plant height, number of tillers, and wheat and weed above-ground biomass were measured. Only tillers with filled grain heads (spikes) were counted. The biomass was cut one inch above the soil surface. Prior to harvest, the incidence and severity of lodging was noted for each plot.
All varieties were harvested on the same day at each site once the latest maturing variety threshed free in hand tests and weather and logistics allowed. Following harvest, the grain from both locations was cleaned with a small Clipper cleaner. Measurements taken include grain yield, moisture, test weight, crude protein, falling number, and DON. Harvest moisture and test weights were determined using a Seedburro GMA 128 grain moisture meter.
Subsamples were ground into flour using a Perten LM3100 Laboratory Mill. Flour was then analyzed for crude protein, falling number, and mycotoxin levels. Protein content was determined using a Leco Combustion Analyzer. Most commercial mills target 12-15% protein. Falling number was determined on a Perten FN 1500 Falling Number Machine. The falling number is related to the level of sprout damage that has occurred in the grain due to enzymatic activity. It is measured by the time it takes, in seconds, for a plunger to fall through a slurry of flour and water to the bottom of the tube. Falling numbers greater than 250 seconds indicate low enzymatic activity and sound quality wheat. Falling numbers lower than 200 indicate high enzymatic activity and poor quality wheat. Concentrations of deoxynivalenol (DON), a mycotoxin produced by the fungus that causes Fusarium head blight, was determined using Veratox DON 2/3 Quantitative test from the NEOGEN Corp. This test has a detection range of 0.5 to 5 ppm. Samples with DON values greater than 1 ppm are considered unsuitable for human consumption. DON concentrations were not determined for the Athens site, but there were no signs of Fusarium infection on the grain heads.
All data were analyzed using mixed model Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) in which replicates were considered random effects. The LSD procedure was used to separate variety averages when the ANOVA F-test was significant (P<0.05). There were significant differences between the locations for most parameters, so results from each location are reported independently.
WHAT IS A SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE?
Variations in yield and quality can occur not only due to genetics but also due to variability in soil, weather, and other growing conditions. Statistical analysis makes it possible to determine whether a difference between two varieties is real or whether it might have occurred due to other variability in the field. The Least Significant Difference (LSD) is the minimum difference needed between two averages to consider them statistically different. LSDs at the 5% level of probability are presented at the bottom of each table for each measure. Where the difference between two varieties within a column is equal to or greater than the LSD value, you can be sure in 19 out of 20 chances that there is a real difference between the two varieties.
In the example below, variety A is significantly different from variety C because the difference between their yields (1454) is greater than the LSD value (889). Variety A is not significantly different from variety B because the difference between their yields (725) is less than the LSD value (889).
Throughout this bulletin, the greatest value at each site for each measure is indicated with an underline and bold type. Varieties that are not significantly different from the greatest value are also in bold type. Using the example below, variety C had the highest measured yield (underlined and bolded) but it was not significantly different than the yield of variety B (bolded).
Winter Wheat Growth and Development
In Maine, most varieties flowered during the last week of May and the first week of June, whereas most flowering at the Vermont and New York sites occurred during the first two weeks of June (Table 4). The Washington State University varieties, Bauermeister, MDM, and Xerpha, had the latest flowering dates at all sites. Lodging and wildlife damage was minimal at all locations.
The number of spikes per unit area is influenced by tillering and tiller survival, which in turn is influenced by variety, planting date, and weather. In our trial, we found spike density (numbers per square foot) to be correlated with wheat biomass (i.e., wheat with higher spike numbers also tended to have greater biomass), and weakly related to grain yield. Wheat at the Vermont and New York sites had higher spike densities than those in Maine (Table 4). In Maine, Arapahoe and Jerry had the highest number of spikes per unit area at both locations, whereas Overland and Jerry had the highest spike densities in Vermont and New York.
Plant height ranged from 22 to 45 inches (Table 4). It is thought that taller varieties may be more competitive with weeds and therefore better suited for organic production than shorter varieties. However, a strong relationship between variety height and weed biomass was not observed in our trials. For instance, AC Morley, Borden, and Zorro were among the tallest varieties at all sites, in addition to Red Fife in Maine and Roughrider in Vermont and New York. Yet these varieties did not necessarily have the lowest weed biomass among the varieties (Table 5). Other factors, like variable plant stands and spotty weed pressure, also influenced weed biomass in our trials. In general, weed pressure at the Old Town site was lowest and consisted almost solely of the winter annual Shepherd’s Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris). The Athens site had the highest weed pressure where perennial weeds such as quackgrass (Elytrigia repens) were a major issue and contributed to the lower yields at this site. Generally, winter wheat is very competitive against summer annual weed problems but is very susceptible to perennial weeds. Therefore, it is important to choose a site with low perennial weed pressure for winter varieties.
|Variety||Estimated Flowering Date||No. of Tillers (no./ft2)||Plant Height (inches)|
|Week of June|
|Old Town||Athens||Alburgh||Willsboro||Old Town||Athens||Alburgh||Willsboro||Old Town||Athens||Alburgh||Willsboro|
|AC Morley||1-Jun||< 9-Jun||2nd wk||1st wk||30||31||56||35||36||31||43||40|
|Alliance||27-May||< 9-Jun||1st wk||2nd wk||35||44||80||68||27||23||34||32|
|Arapahoe||28-May||< 9-Jun||2nd wk||2nd wk||45†||49||80||63||29||27||36||32|
|Bauermeister||10-Jun||10-Jun||3rd wk||3rd wk||39||39||72||53||31||23||34||38|
|Borden||30-May||< 9-Jun||1st wk||1st wk||28||36||53||45||36||31||45||39|
|Camelot||29-May||< 9-Jun||1st wk||2nd wk||39||34||58||47||29||27||33||32|
|Expedition||26-May||< 9-Jun||1st wk||2nd wk||38||43||82||68||29||27||32||32|
|Harvard||28-May||< 9-Jun||1st wk||2nd wk||30||36||57||63||30||30||35||34|
|Jerry||1-Jun||< 9-Jun||2nd wk||2nd wk||48||41||82||72||33||26||40||36|
|Mace||1-Jun||< 9-Jun||2nd wk||2nd wk||35||33||82||67||25||20||32||34|
|Maxine||30-May||< 9-Jun||1st wk||2nd wk||22||30||49||34||28||24||32||31|
|Millennium||29-May||< 9-Jun||2nd wk||2nd wk||35||34||73||55||28||26||37||33|
|Overland||29-May||< 9-Jun||2nd wk||2nd wk||36||29||88||74||30||25||35||33|
|Redeemer||31-May||< 9-Jun||2nd wk||1st wk||28||34||52||40||30||29||36||33|
|Red Fife||3-Jun||< 9-Jun||—||—||26||21||—||—||43||39||—||—|
|Roughrider||—||—||2nd wk||2nd wk||—||—||101||64||—||—||45||37|
|Wahoo||29-May||< 9-Jun||2nd wk||2nd wk||35||38||95||63||28||25||36||34|
|Warthog||31-May||< 9-Jun||2nd wk||2nd wk||29||28||45||45||33||24||38||34|
|Wesley||27-May||< 9-Jun||1st wk||2nd wk||38||43||73||53||25||22||31||31|
|Zorro||2-June||< 9-Jun||2nd wk||2nd wk||27||24||45||35||37||32||38||39|
|Anton‡||29-May||< 9-Jun||2nd wk||2nd wk||29||33||51||49||28||23||33||29|
|MDM‡||10-Jun||11-Jun||3rd wk||3rd wk||35||34||58||44||30||22||32||34|
|Xerpha‡||6-Jun||10-Jun||3rd wk||3rd wk||29||31||56||50||27||24||30||32|
† For all measures, bolded values are not significantly different from the highest value, which is indicated with underline.
|Variety||Weed Biomass (lbs/acre)||Wheat Plant Biomass (lbs/acre)|
|Old Town||Athens||Alburgh||Willsboro||Old Town||Athens||Alburgh||Willsboro|
|LSD (0.05)||11||NS §||NS §||277||NS §||NS §||NS §||NS §|
|† For all measures, bolded values are not significantly different from the highest value, which is indicated with underline. For weed biomass, the lowest values are indicated.
‡ Variety is not a hard red type and was not included in statistical analyses.
§No significant difference among varieties.
Winter Wheat Yield
Overall, wheat yields were higher in Vermont and New York than in Maine, which is likely related to the former sites having more growing degree days. Differences in weed pressure and background fertility also were involved. Average yields were 3647 lbs/ac in Alburgh, 3707 lbs/ac in Willsboro, 2785 lbs/ac in Old Town, and 1610 lbs/ac in Athens (Table 6, Fig. 1). The highest yielding varieties were: in Old Town, Jerry at 3469 lbs/ac; in Athens, Harvard at 2409 lbs/ac; and in Vermont and New York, Borden at 4615 and 4657 lbs/ac, respectively. Varieties that yielded well at all sites were Borden, Camelot, Harvard, and Jerry. Varieties that yielded well at two or three sites included Alliance, Arapahoe, Millennium, Overland, Wahoo, and Zorro. Red Fife is considered a spring type wheat but sowing it in the fall as a winter wheat has gained interest in our region. In this winter wheat trial Red Fife was the lowest yielding variety in Old Town and the third lowest in Athens. It was not included at the other sites. In general, most varieties reach the optimal 55 to 60 lb/bu test weight for wheat. The later maturing varieties from Washington state (Bauermeister, MDM, and Xerpha) tended to have lower test weights and higher moisture.
|Variety||Grain Moisture at Harvest† (%)||Test Weight (lbs/bu)||Yield at 13.5% Moisture (lbs/acre)|
|Old Town||Athens||Alburgh||Willsboro||Old Town||Athens||Alburgh||Willsboro||Old Town||Athens||Alburgh||Willsboro|
|LSD (0.05)||—||—||1||NS ¶||—||2||1||2||695||539||NS||564|
|† All varieties at each site were harvested on the same day.
‡ For all measures, bolded values are not significantly different from the highest value, which is indicated with an underline.
§ Variety is not a hard red type and was not included in the statistical analyses.
¶ No significant difference among varieties.
Winter Wheat Quality
Commercial mills use a variety of measurements to determine if a particular lot of wheat grain is suitable for bread flour, including grain protein, falling number, test weight, and mycotoxin (DON) concentration. Overall, crude protein was higher in Athens and Willsboro (12.0 and 13.0%, respectively) than in Old Town and Alburgh (10.7 and 10.8%, respectively; Table 7, Fig. 2). Maxine and Redeemer had were among the top protein varieties at all sites. Other varieties with relatively high protein levels at two or more sites AC Morley, Red Fife, Roughrider, and Zorro. There were no statistically significant differences among the crude protein levels at the Athens site. Almost every variety had acceptable falling number levels based on mill standards (>250 seconds). Xerpha and MDM, which are not hard red varieties, were exceptions.
There were few signs of Fusarium head blight at either of the Maine sites, and DON levels measured for the varieties grown at Old Town were all under the 1 ppm limit for human consumption. DON levels were not measured for the Athen site. The fungus that causes Fusarium head blight and produces DON infects the plants through the flower. Conditions were dry just before and during flowering in Maine which would have prevented innoculum from building up and infecting plants. In contrast, in Vermont and New York, a few varieties exceeded the 1 ppm standard. In particular, the three Washington state varieties (Bauermeister, MDM, and Xerpha) had the highest levels, which could be related to their later flowering time or to the fact that these varieties were developed in a region with low Fusarium disease pressure.
|Variety||Crude Protein at 12%||Falling Number at 14%||DON (ppm)|
|Old Town||Athens||Alburgh||Willsboro||Old Town||Alburgh||Willsboro||Old Town||Alburgh||Willsboro|
|AC Morley||10.8||12.1||12.1||13.1||383||368||349||< 0.5||0.6||0.7|
|Alliance||10.4||11.5||9.9||12.4||283||346||333||< 0.5||< 0.5||< 0.5|
|Borden||10.1||11.6||9.7||12.1||393||364||361||< 0.5||< 0.5||0.5|
|Jerry||10.9||12.1||10.7||12.7||371||381||376||< 0.5||2.1||< 0.5|
|Maxine||11.7†||12.3||10.8||13.6||292||385||375||< 0.5||< 0.5||0.8|
|Millennium||10.8||12.1||10.0||12.8||388||376||378||< 0.5||< 0.5||1.0|
|Overland||10.5||12.1||9.6||12.8||416||382||399||< 0.5||0.8||< 0.5|
|Redeemer||11.5||12.0||12.9||14.3||426||421||420||< 0.5||< 0.5||< 0.5|
|Red Fife||11.7||12.3||—||—||386||—||—||< 0.5||—||—|
|LSD (0.05)||0.7||NS §||1.5||1.1||33||24||27||—||1.9||0.9|
|† For all measures, bolded values are not significantly different from the highest value, which is indicated with an underline.
‡Variety is not a hard red type and was not included in the statistical analyses.
§ No significant difference among varieties.
It is important to note that the results presented in this report are from just one year of data and do not necessarily reflect how the varieties would perform in different years. We will repeat these trials in 2011. However, some observations are worth noting at this point. Historical yields for organic hard red winter wheat grown in this region over the last 10 years are estimated to be 2500 lbs/ac (personal communication, Matt Williams, 2011). Average yields in these trials exceeded this average at three of the four sites. The average yield in Willsboro (3707 lbs/ac) and Alburgh (3647 lbs/ac) was higher than in Old Town (2785 lbs/ac) and much higher than in Athens (1610 lbs/ac). High weed pressure and low background fertility contributed to poor growing conditions at the Athens site. The relative performance of each variety was not always consistent across locations, due likely to such differences in growing conditions and soil type. For instance, a few varieties that were in the top-yielding group in Old Town, yielded relatively poorly in Athens (ex. Warthog); and others that were top yielders in Athens were not in the top group in Old Town (ex. Expedition). Yet some varieties yielded consistently well at all sites, including Borden, Camelot, Harvard, and Jerry. In addition, Zorro performed well in Maine, and Alliance, Arapahoe, and Millennium performed well in New York and Vermont.
Crude protein levels were highest at the Athens and Willsboro sites, with nearly all varieties at or above 12%, the standard cutoff for good baking characteristics. High yields are often associated with lower protein as seen at the Old Town site. This was not the case at the Willsboro site, however, where yields were high and accompanied high protein levels. Redeemer stands out for being a variety that consistently yielded close to or above the historical level and also had relatively high grain protein values at all sites.
One variety new to the Northeast that showed promise in our trials is Jerry. While not always the top performer for each measurement, Jerry was among the top yielders at all sites and had relatively good grain protein levels. We’re looking forward to seeing how it performs next year.
Before selecting varieties, it may be helpful to compare these results to variety trials from other regions. Ultimately, though, it is important to evaluate data from test sites that are similar to your farm and region in terms of soil type and climate when deciding which varieties to grow.
Acknowledgements: In Maine, we thank Luke Sites of Sites Farm for providing his assistance and field in Athens, and Sabrina Correll, Hannah Griffin, Lisa Gross, Greta Landis, and Joe Cannon for their technical help. In Vermont, we thank the Borderview Reserach Farm and the Willsboro Research Farm for their generous help with the trials.
This research is supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Organic Research and Extension Initiative under Award No. 2009-01366, “Enhancing farmers’ capacity to produce high quality organic bread wheat.”
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