Tag Archives: wheat

MANHATTAN, Kan. — The Kansas Wheat Commission has announced that it is putting its support behind a technology being advanced at Kansas State University and that one researcher says will bring “many new discoveries” in improving wheat.

The university has been working with wheat gene editing since 2014, and recently published findings of a study in which they successfully increased seed size in a cultivar of wheat. Their work was published Aug. 22 in the journal, Theoretical and Applied Genetics.

“This is our first product that shows that the system works and that we can effectively apply it and affect a trait in wheat in a positive way,” said Eduard Akhunov, K-State professor of wheat genetics and pathology.

Gene editing is a technology that gives scientists the ability to improve an organism’s DNA, essentially by repairing a gene that is producing an undesirable outcome in the organism.

K-State scientists have evaluated the entire wheat genome to identify individual genes that affect such traits as disease resistance, drought tolerance, seed size and more, then use a protein known as CRISPR/Cas9 to introduce changes into a DNA code. CRISPR/Cas9 acts as a sort of molecular ‘scissors’ to cut out the undesired part of a target gene or introduce new parts with improved properties, according to Akhunov.

“It’s hard to hide the optimism associated with the potential of gene editing for wheat,” said Aaron Harries, the vice president for research and operations for the Kansas Wheat Commission. “While bread wheat has existed on the planet for 10,000 years, science has only started to understand its complex genetic structure in the past few decades.”

Harries said the Kansas Wheat Commission has recently funded a gene editing project in Akhunov’s lab at K-State to identify wheat genes that can be edited to promote improvements in yield and quality traits.

“Most Kansas producers are supportive of gene editing,” Harries said. “The Kansas Wheat Commission strongly believes that it is a tool, in combination with the recently completed map of the wheat genome, that can significantly advance wheat research in the next decade.

He added: “The general consensus in the science industry is that gene editing is a safe, non-GMO technique. Importantly, U.S. government regulations also classify this as a non-GMO technology.”

Wei Wang, a postdoctoral research assistant in Akhunov’s lab, spent much of the last four years analyzing and editing genes that could be used to improve future wheat varieties. He said he has a set of 25 to 30 genes that are in the project’s pipeline, ready to be implemented in the breeding cycle in the next several years.

“We will be working on a larger set of genes that will affect not only yield component traits, but anything that will be relevant to Kansas wheat growers – drought tolerance, disease resistance, nutritional quality…,” Wei said. “There are a large number of genes that we will be considering in the future within the scope of the wheat gene editing platform.”

Gene editing has received much press coverage for its potential uses with the human genome. K-State is one of just a few places in the world where scientists are using it to improve wheat genes, said Akhunov, who also credited plant pathology professor Harold Trick for his contributions to the project.

Up to now, K-State’s gene editing work was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture and the International Wheat Yield Partnership, a large international effort to improve wheat production.

“Wheat’s genome is five times larger than the human genome,” Harries said. “Having recently completed a map of the wheat genome — timed with the emergence of gene editing technology – means that we could be entering the golden age for wheat research.”

The full journal article outlining K-State’s recent work in improving seed size is available online.

MANHATTAN, Kan. — Kansas Wheat Alliance (KWA) offers several K-State wheat varieties that can perform in any environment, for any type of producer. Great disease packages, drought resistance, acid soil tolerance and high yields are various aspects delivered in KWA varieties.

Even with many tribulations during the 2018 growing season due to drought and other weather conditions, KWA varieties still made it to the top of many performance tests across and outside Kansas.

One of KWA’s highest performing varieties this year and past years is Larry, a hard red winter wheat with high performance especially in the south central region of the state.

“If we look at south central Kansas from McPherson through Hutchinson and as far south as Conway Springs, and we look at harvest results from years 2015 to 2018, Larry was the highest yielding variety in south central Kansas, together with WB4303,” said Romulo Lollato, wheat and forage crop extension agent with K-State.

In that same region, Zenda, another hard red winter wheat variety from KWA, also ranked high on the list, especially in 2017.

“These are excellent results. We’re comparing with several other varieties, including private and other public varieties as well,” Lollato said.

Results like this are expected because of Larry’s higher yield potential compared to Zenda, but Zenda has other attributes that make it a very successful variety. Ultimately, these top two yielding varieties are very different, but both provide great results.

“That’s why we suggest that a wheat producer should always diversify their varieties within their operation. Depending on the region, you may have drought stress or acid soils more often, head scab, or whatever your problem is, but you should be really trying to diversify your portfolio of varieties,” says Lollato.

Zenda has been called the “Everest replacement” due to its similarities with the well-known, older variety. It has the strengths of Everest but has better milling and baking qualities.

“Zenda brings forward a lot of the resistance to fusarium head blight (FHB) and some good resistance to barley yellow dwarf (BYD). It also addresses the Everest vulnerability to stripe rust, and that’s a big plus in some of those heavier stripe rust years,” said Erick DeWolf, K-State wheat disease spec
ialist.

Zenda, like Everest, offers FHB tolerance, which makes it a good choice if you are going to plant it following corn. Its scab tolerance and good stripe rust tolerance make Zenda a great fit for a producer’s operation.

DeWolf says that if Everest has done well for you, then Zenda would be a more productive, stripe rust-resistant variety that is worth a look.

Everest is one of KWA’s most well-known varieties and has been a top performer in Kansas for a number of years. DeWolf says Everest offers a great disease package that has remained strong over its lifetime, even in difficult disease years.

“Some of its strengths have been some of the best available resistance to fusarium head blight, barley yellow dwarf, leaf rust, powdery mildew, and it has Hessian fly resistance. That disease resistance has really helped it maintain its productivity in a lot of years,” De Wolf says.

Everest is best adapted for central and eastern Kansas, where many of the diseases mentioned by DeWolf are most problematic. Its replacement, Zenda, offers an improved quality profile as compared to Everest.

Two varieties that are performing well in the western part of the state are Tatanka, a hard red winter wheat, and Joe, a hard white wheat.

Tatanka offers good stripe and stem rust resistance, plus a resistance to soilborne mosaic. DeWolf says the rust resistance is important for western Kansas and so is its average drought tolerance. Another notable trait Tatanka offers is a high yield performance. In the 2018 K-State Wheat Performance Tests, Tatanka was in the top yielding group in Tribune and Decatur and was the top yielding variety in Larned.

Joe is a strong, hard white winter wheat option for western Kansas. It has had an exceptional yield record in recent years, and DeWolf says it’s one of the best adapted and most productive varieties that is available for growers in western Kansas.

Joe also offers an above average disease package with resistance to stripe rust and leaf rust.
Perhaps most notably, it also has some of the best available resistance to the wheat streak mosaic virus (WSMV).

Another KWA variety well-suited for the western part of the state is Oakley CL, a hard red winter wheat, which also has good resistance to WSMV. It is also strong on stripe rust resistance and is moderately resistant to leaf rust.

“When growers know they are in a high-risk area for wheat streak and want to plant a red wheat then Oakley CL is often what we direct them to because of its resistance to wheat streak mosaic,” DeWolf said.

DeWolf says the wheat streak resistance is not a silver bullet, though, and growers should be aware that the resistance doesn’t function at very warm temperatures.

KWA offers a number of other varieties with various traits to make them successful. It’s important to remember that each variety offers something a little different, and it’s good to diversify your wheat variety portfolio to make sure you are not exposed to one specific problem.

Lollato says, “I think within KWA we are offering a nice range of genetic diversity in our varieties, and if a producer wants to stick to KWA varieties, they have excellent options to diversify their portfolio.”

If you are interested in learning more about K-State wheat varieties, visit the KWA website at kswheatalliance.org to find information on where to buy and variety performance in your region.

MANHATTAN, Kan. — Hidden in the stubble of 2018’s wheat harvest, wheat curl mites are moving to find sprouting volunteer wheat seedlings to inhabit and continue the life cycle of wheat streak mosaic. The wheat streak mosaic virus (WSMV) instigated by these mites seriously affects the total yield of a wheat crop.

On average, WSMV causes $75 million in losses to Kansas wheat farmers every year. Wheat Streak Mosaic can cause a yield loss of more than 80 percent. WSMV isn’t treatable, but it is preventable. If we take preventative measures now, future yields will improve exponentially.

The virus is spread by the wheat curl mite, which feeds on wheat and other grasses. Wheat curl mites and the virus must have green host tissue to survive on throughout the summer after harvest. They most commonly reside on volunteer wheat that blew out the back of the combine or shattered grain from hail storms that happened before harvest. The mites on the fallen kernels move to the sprouting volunteer seedlings as new plants emerge in the summer.

Volunteer wheat is considered a “green bridge” because it allows the wheat curl mites and the virus to survive the summer.

Losses due to WSMV depend on variety, weather, percentage of infected plants and the time of infection. The first visible symptoms usually pop up in April on the edges of fields near volunteer wheat. Yellow streaking and mosaic patterns on young leaves and stunted tillers are some of the first signs. Symptoms worsen as the weather warms. Leaves on the infected plants turn yellow from the tip down, but usually the leaf veins remain green the longest. This gives the appearance of a striped yellow and green leaf, if the leaf is able to unfurl completely at all.

The best way to prevent the spread of the wheat streak mosaic virus is to remove volunteer wheat and other grassy weeds. Volunteer wheat must be completely dead and dry for two weeks before planting a new wheat crop. Volunteer wheat and other grassy weeds can be killed with herbicides or tillage.

A second management practice to limit the spread of the virus is to avoid early planting. Plant wheat after the “hessian fly free date” for your area. In some areas in western Kansas where there is no Hessian fly-free date, farmers should choose to wait until late September or October to plant their wheat. Planting after these dates will reduce the risk for the new wheat crop and reduce wheat curl mites from moving to new locations of wheat.

In addition, there are a few wheat varieties with moderate resistance to this devastating disease. Hard white wheats Joe and Clara CL, as well as hard red winter wheat Oakley CL have performed well in areas with wheat streak mosaic.

This resistance is not perfect and these plants may still be susceptible to triticum mosaic or high plains mosaic viruses. The resistance to wheat streak mosaic is less effective at temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, planting these varieties early for grazing can place fields at risk for disease-related yield losses.

Undoubtedly, the best method to control WSMV is controlling the volunteer wheat. Be a good steward, and a good neighbor, when making these management decisions, and you might just be rewarded with a boost in bushels on your next wheat crop.

Hidden in the stubble of 2018’s wheat harvest, wheat curl mites are moving to find sprouting volunteer wheat seedlings to inhabit and continue the life cycle of wheat streak mosaic. The wheat streak mosaic virus (WSMV) instigated by these mites seriously affects the total yield of a wheat crop.

 

On average, WSMV causes $75 million in losses to Kansas wheat farmers every year. Wheat Streak Mosaic can cause a yield loss of more than 80 percent. WSMV isn’t treatable, but it is preventable. If we take preventative measures now, future yields will improve exponentially.

 

The virus is spread by the wheat curl mite, which feeds on wheat and other grasses. Wheat curl mites and the virus must have green host tissue to survive on throughout the summer after harvest. They most commonly reside on volunteer wheat that blew out the back of the combine or shattered grain from hail storms that happened before harvest. The mites on the fallen kernels move to the sprouting volunteer seedlings as new plants emerge in the summer.

 

Volunteer wheat is considered a “green bridge” because it allows the wheat curl mites and the virus to survive the summer.

 

Losses due to WSMV depend on variety, weather, percentage of infected plants and the time of infection. The first visible symptoms usually pop up in April on the edges of fields near volunteer wheat. Yellow streaking and mosaic patterns on young leaves and stunted tillers are some of the first signs. Symptoms worsen as the weather warms. Leaves on the infected plants turn yellow from the tip down, but usually the leaf veins remain green the longest. This gives the appearance of a striped yellow and green leaf, if the leaf is able to unfurl completely at all.

 

The best way to prevent the spread of the wheat streak mosaic virus is to remove volunteer wheat and other grassy weeds. Volunteer wheat must be completely dead and dry for two weeks before planting a new wheat crop. Volunteer wheat and other grassy weeds can be killed with herbicides or tillage.

 

A second management practice to limit the spread of the virus is to avoid early planting. Plant wheat after the “hessian fly free date” for your area. In some areas in western Kansas where there is no Hessian fly-free date, farmers should choose to wait until late September or October to plant their wheat. Planting after these dates will reduce the risk for the new wheat crop and reduce wheat curl mites from moving to new locations of wheat.

 

In addition, there are a few wheat varieties with moderate resistance to this devastating disease. Hard white wheats Joe and Clara CL, as well as hard red winter wheat Oakley CL have performed well in areas with wheat streak mosaic.

 

This resistance is not perfect and these plants may still be susceptible to triticum mosaic or high plains mosaic viruses. The resistance to wheat streak mosaic is less effective at temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, planting these varieties early for grazing can place fields at risk for disease-related yield losses.

 

Undoubtedly, the best method to control WSMV is controlling the volunteer wheat. Be a good steward, and a good neighbor, when making these management decisions, and you might just be rewarded with a boost in bushels on your next wheat crop.

OTTAWA – A union representing transportation workers in Churchill, Man., is calling on Ottawa to buy back the Canadian Wheat Board from a Saudi consortium in light of the diplomatic spat between the two countries.

The Union of Canadian Transportation Employees which represents Churchill port workers says Saudi Arabia’s decision to stop buying Canadian wheat and barley shows it won’t put the interests of grain farmers first.

Earlier this month, the kingdom suspended diplomatic relations with Canada, expelled the Canadian ambassador and ordered students studying in Canada to leave the country in response to a series of tweets by Ottawa criticizing the arrest of some social activists there.

Union president Dave Clark says having a foreign country managing an important Canadian asset is wrong and should be reversed.

G3 Canada Ltd., a joint venture between Bunge Canada and a subsidiary of the Saudi Agricultural and Livestock Investment Co., bought a majority stake in the wheat board after it was privatized in 2012.

The union says a reduction of grain passing through the port since the sale has hurt the community and port workers.

MANHATTAN, Kan. — Since the late 1800s flour milling has served an important role in the Kansas economy. The increased demand globally for milled products has made education about the process crucial for a stable supply. The IGP Institute at Kansas State University and the International Association of Operative Millers teamed up to offer the IAOM-KSU Introduction to Flour Milling course August 13-17, 2018 at the IGP Institute.

The course hosted eight participants from four different countries including Canada, Korea, Sri Lanka and the United States.

This course is a combination of lectures taught by K–State staff, a visit to the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center and hands-on training in the Hal Ross Flour Mill, Shellenberger Baking Lab and the Shellenberger Milling Lab.

“Participants received a well-rounded education on the milling industry, as we covered the milling process starting with growing wheat and ending with the baked products,” says Shawn Thiele, flour milling and grain processing curriculum manager at the IGP Institute. He adds, “This allows participants to understand the whole process of producing flour.”

In this course, the topics covered included overview of the U.S. milling industry; wheat production, supply and demand; wheat classes, uses, and basic wheat chemistry; wheat cleaning and conditioning; gradual reduction process overview; milling math (extraction, tempering and blending); principles of mill flow sheets; overview of the general milling process and major milling equipment; flour and dough testing practices and methods; flour functionality; wheat and flour blending; grade, quality, and mill performance on flour extraction.

As participant Scott Osborne, vice president of innovation at Mennel Milling reflects back on the course he says, “The most enjoyable part was the hands-on component. I believe you learn in four ways, reading, watching, doing, and teaching.” He has recently moved into this role and has been learning more about grain science through reading and watching. He says, “I now had the chance to do, which is what made it useful for me, the chance to do hands-on activities.”

This course is suited for anyone involved in the milling industry including but not limited to new mill employees, HR staff, ingredient procurement managers, and feed and flour sales representatives. In addition to flour milling and grain processing, the IGP Institute offers courses in the areas of grain marketing and risk management and feed manufacturing and grain quality management. To learn more about these other training opportunities, visit the IGP Institute website at www.ksu.edu/igp

As of Friday, Aug. 17, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) noted in their weekly harvest update that other than a few acres in Wyoming, the 2018 HRW harvest progress is now limited to Montana (71% complete), Washington (74% complete) and Idaho (74% complete).

USW said that Washington, Oregon and Idaho continue to report a very good crop with high test weights, but generally lower protein than other HRW wheat-producing areas. Kansas finished harvest in early July and saw lower yields due to drought, but reported good quality.

After touring the wheat fields in Kansas and northern Oklahoma this past April with the Wheat Quality Council, I wasn’t expecting much in the way of yields as drought gripped most of both states, with many of the fields we inspected showing the stress. Those of us on the tour did see some hope if timely rains fell, but some spots were beyond help.

Moisture did come for some, but others received hail with the rain. Jeanne Falk Jones, Multi-County Specialist in Agronomy at Kansas State University Research and Extension in the Sunflower District, told Kansas Wheat in their July 16 harvest report that, “I cover Wallace, Sherman and Cheyenne counties, and from what I’ve seen the variable of wheat has been driven by hail,” Jones said. “Wheat that wasn’t harvested was because it got hit with a lot of hail.”

Jones told Kansas Wheat that, “Truly it was hail that was the name of the game,” Jones said. “What could have been really high potential wheat was lost during the hail storms.”

Jones added that, “We are thankful for the wheat that we got during the growing season. We had a few really good past harvests, and this year was kind of a letdown. The dry conditions just really took it out on the wheat.”

Scott Van Allen, who farms in Sumner County, Kansas, told me that harvest went very fast with excellent weather. “The wheat was very short because of the dry fall, winter and spring,” he said. “We had no moisture from Oct. 21, 2017, till March 21, 2018. Yields were from 21 bpa (bushels per acre) to 46 bpa. I don’t have any individual protein results but the overall was 12.5% to 13%. Test weights were all over with some at 60 pounds, some 64 pounds. All in all, a lower than average harvest as yields go, but the quality helps with the marketing.”

In the Aug. 10 USDA Supply and Demand Report, Kansas was forecast to harvest 277 million bushels with a yield forecast of 38 bpa, down 10 bpa from 2017 due to the extended drought.

Farmers in South Dakota saw a better harvest than one year ago when drought caused many of them to either zero out acres or bale them for feed. While acres planted for winter wheat were lower last fall, down 9% from the prior year, results were good; except for the lost acres due to two hailstorms that moved through north central South Dakota this past summer.

Tim Luken, manager at Oahe Grain, Onida South Dakota, told me that, “Winter and spring wheat harvest in the Onida area started July 9, and we finished the first week in August. Winter wheat harvest yields where all over the map and the June 27 and June 29 hail events didn’t help matter any either. Not only did this cut our acres of winter wheat, but as a whole winter wheat acres are dwindling in the state.”

Luken said his yields on winter wheat ranged from 25 bpa all the way to the best I heard of 94 bpa, and this was across my scale. “I was hearing a lot of 50 bpa to 60 bpa overall,” said Luken. “Quality was excellent with no vom (vomitoxin) or scab issues at all. It was nice to see a crop come in and not have any quality issues this year. This year, the average test weight was 60.8 and our protein was 13.5%; this is the highest average protein I have ever seen in the 11 years I have been here.”

In the Aug. 10 USDA Supply and Demand Report, South Dakota was forecast to harvest 37.2 million bushels (up 79% from 2017) with a yield forecast of 51 bpa, up 11 bpa from 2017 when drought covered the state.

Montana farmers planted 150,000 fewer acres of winter wheat last fall than they did the season before after being shut out in 2017 from one of the worst droughts in 10 years that covered nearly the whole state. This year, Montana wheat farmers are expected to have one of their best harvests, according to various sources in the state.

Todd LaPlant, elevator manager at EGT LLC, Kintyre Flats, Montana, told me that very little winter wheat was planted last fall in eastern Montana. “But, what we have seen at harvest this year has been excellent quality of 61 lbs and 12.5% pro on average,” he said.

USW noted in their harvest update report that Montana continues to report very good yields, very good test weights and very good protein, though planted area was lower this year in the state. “With some variation between southern and northern regions, the Montana Grain Lab reported that overall the crop is averaging 63 pounds and 12.6% protein,” noted USW.

In the Aug. 10 USDA Supply and Demand Report, Montana was forecast to harvest 75.4 million bushels versus 66.8 in drought-stricken 2017 with a yield forecast of 52 bpa, up 10 bpa from 2017. If Montana hits that mark, the 2018 yield would be a record.

Oklahoma Wheat Commission reported on their website in early July that 98% of the winter wheat in the state had been harvested. “Quality for the 2018 wheat crop across Oklahoma will be favorable with high test weights and high proteins. Test weights on average will range from 60 to 62 pounds, with reports on protein running 12.5% to 13%,” noted the report.

While quality is expected to be high, the USDA in the Aug. 10 report estimated the Oklahoma wheat harvest at 55 million bushels versus 98.6 in 2017, with a yield forecast of 25 bpa, down 6 bpa from 2017. Like Kansas, Oklahoma faced drought conditions in the fall, winter and spring, which contributed to the lower harvest acres.

Overall, the USDA forecast total HRW hard red winter production in the U.S. at 661 million bushels versus 750 million bushels in 2017. Lower planted acres and drought conditions in many of the key winter wheat states caused the lower production this year.

USW noted that the consensus among industry sources is that the quality of the 2018 HRW wheat crop ranks among the best that U.S. farmers have produced in many years.

HIGH PROTEIN CROP CAUSES PROTEIN PRICE SPREAD TO NARROW

The USW weekly harvest report on Aug. 17 showed that with harvest nearly done in the Northern Plains and western U.S., the overall 2018 protein average was at 12.5% versus 11.5% in 2017 and 11.2% in 2016. That’s good news for mills, but not great news for farmers with higher protein.

Remember that flour mills’ flavor of choice is 12% protein when it comes to making flour. While flour mills make a 13% protein flour, the most common is a mid-mix, 12% protein flour. One thing to note is that 1% of the wheat protein is lost in the flour-making process.

Mills will want to blend the 2018 crop with old-crop and have been paying better prices for the lower proteins. The spot premium spread between ords (below 11%) and 14% started to narrow ahead of harvest because higher protein was expected out of Kansas and Oklahoma due to drought conditions. On Friday, Aug. 17, spot ords were at +120KCU, 11% to 12% proteins were at +140KCU and 13% through 14% were at +150KCU. On June 27, the day basis rolled to the September futures, ords were quoted at +92KCU, 11% through 12% proteins were quoted at +127KCU to +162KCU and 13% through 14% was quoted at +177KCU to +182KCU.

The same holds true for wheat at the Gulf as far as blending the new-crop down to meet export specs. The Gulf 12% protein basis saw the same effect on basis as the milling prices, with 12% protein on Aug. 17 quoted at +120KCU and ords quoted at +85KCU. On June 29, 12% protein was quoted +146KCU with ords quoted at +98KCU.

The one bright spot for HRW wheat prices has been the strength in the flat price thanks to futures rallying over production issues in the EU, and just recently, rallying over unconfirmed reports that that Russia’s Ag Ministry “may have” mentioned curbing grain exports due to lower production there. Should this happen, that could mean good news for U.S. exports, which are currently moving at a snail’s pace in relation to USDA forecast for 2018-19 exports.

Traders are doubtful this will take place, but this is not the first time it has been reported and then denied by the Russian AG Ministry. However, remember that Russia and Ukraine halted wheat exports in 2010-11 because of lower-than-expected crop production in 2010. They also imposed various restrictions in the form of higher export taxes as well, which in turn slowed exports there.

The bottom line is that if any of the above should take place, it will be music to the ears of U.S. exporters and producers.

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring is cautioning North Dakota farmers about the possibility of people impersonating state employees in order to take photos and samples of grain.

Goehring says his office has had calls from farmers about people supposedly acting in an official capacity and taking photos and samples of wheat fields.

He says no state government agency or North Dakota State University has authorized any such work. And he says anyone working for the state should be able to provide proper credentials and the reason for their visit.

Goehring encourages farmers who encounter suspicious activity to alert the authorities.

PORTLAND, Ore.  — Seven ships loaded with wheat grown in America’s Pacific Northwest are sailing for Yemen, where a stalemated civil war has pushed more than 8 million people to the brink of starvation.

The U.S. Agency for International Development, which administers the Food for Peace program, purchased the wheat to benefit America’s wheat farmers and people in crisis. It was then handed over to the U.N.’s World Food Program to be shipped and distributed in Yemen.

Stephen Anderson, the WFP’s Yemen country director, told a Friday news conference in Portland that the wheat will provide much-needed relief.

“We’re doing our best to get food assistance to those people who need it most,” Anderson said, according to the Capital Press, an agricultural publication.

Over the past two weeks, seven ships filled with 176,000 tons (159,665 metric tons) of wheat have left Portland for Yemen, two Oregon politicians said.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley and Republican state Rep. Mike McLane said in a joint statement they’re proud to see Oregon wheat being used in one of America’s “most effective peacebuilding tools,” its Food for Peace program.

“We see these agricultural programs representing the best of American values, culture and policy,” Merkley and McLane said in their statement published in The Oregonian/OregonLive.

Darren Padget, a wheat farmer from Grass Valley, Oregon, told the Capital Press he’s pleased the wheat is going to the needy.

Aid workers in Yemen are worried that fighting that is nearing a port where most food aid arrives could force its shutdown and potentially tip millions into starvation. WFP Executive Director David Beasley has called Hodeida Port “a humanitarian lifeline for millions who are on the brink of famine.”

Yemeni government forces, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, have been trying to retake Hodeida as they battle Iran-allied rebels known as Houthis.

The Houthis seized control of Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, in September 2014, and later pushed south toward the port city of Aden. The Saudi-led coalition entered the conflict in March 2015 and has faced criticism for a campaign of airstrikes that has killed civilians and destroyed hospitals and markets.

The Houthis have laid land mines, killing and wounding civilians. They also have targeted religious minorities and imprisoned opponents. The stalemate war has killed more than 10,000 people.

Around two-thirds of the country’s population of 27 million relies on aid and 8.4 million are at risk of starving.

David Ostdiek – Communications Specialist, UNL Panhandle REC

A multi-disciplinary team of University of Nebraska-Lincoln researchers will conduct a two-year study to see how soil nitrogen levels affect protein levels in the grain that comes from Nebraska wheat fields.

The team hopes to evaluate how grain quality, yield, and field stands are affected by nitrogen fertilizer rates and application timing. The trials will be conducted across the state and with variations in the amount of precipitation the plots receive.

The project also will test the effectiveness of crop sensors in monitoring wheat crop conditions and whether inputs are needed during the growing season.

Lead principal investigator is Bijesh Maharjan, soil and nutrient management specialist at the UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center in Scottsbluff. Co-investigators are several of Maharjan’s colleagues at the Panhandle Center: Dryland Cropping Systems Specialist Cody Creech, and Alternative Crops Breeding Specialist Dipak Santra. Investigators based in Lincoln or elsewhere in eastern Nebraska include Wheat Breeding Specialist Stephen Baenziger; Research Assistant Professor Teshome Regassa; Devin Rose, Associate Professor in Food Science and Technology in the UNL Food Innovation Center; Yeyin Shi, Assistant Professor in Biological Systems Engineering and Agricultural Information Systems Specialist; and Extension Educator Nathan Mueller.

Research plots will be located at Scottsbluff, Sidney, Grant, and Mead.

The project is funded by grants from the Nebraska Wheat Board (for the coming year) and the University of Nebraska Agricultural Research Division (ARD) Innovation Fund for Wheat/Cereal Crops (for the next two years).

One reason for the study is Nebraska wheat crop yield data from 2016 and 2017, which revealed low protein levels in both years.

Wheat growers receive lower prices when grain protein levels fall below certain levels. According to the project proposal, low protein levels cost Nebraska producers somewhere between $2.3 million and $9.6 million dollars in 2016 alone, despite high yields, based on reports from elevator personnel and Wheat Board members.

Among many potential factors, soil nitrogen is probably the most important factor that affects protein levels in wheat, Maharjan said. With low grain prices, farmers are under pressure to lower input costs, including nitrogen fertilizer.

“Reducing or eliminating nitrogen applications to winter wheat will typically result in low protein when yields are high and/or residual soil nitrogen is low.”

In addition, abundant fall and spring precipitation during both growing seasons increased the plants’ tillering and grain yields, but may have moved soil nitrogen deeper into the soil profile, where the crop’s roots cannot reach it.

“In order to increase protein levels in wheat, N must be properly managed in the soil and be available for plant uptake during grain development,” the project proposal stated. “The interacting effect of N with available soil moisture becomes a contingent issue for a profitable winter wheat production.”

Predicting how much nitrogen a wheat crop will need requires an extensive data set, and UNL’s formula for predicting wheat’s nitrogen requirement was developed in the 1970s. The formula is due to be updated, based on changes in wheat variety traits and management, as well as changing climatic conditions, Maharjan said.

At the same time, crop-sensing technology has been used with success in predicting nitrogen requirements for another of the state’s important crops, corn. Research established a strong relationship between total chlorophyll content in a corn canopy and the crop’s nitrogen status. This project will explore whether crop sensing technology can potentially benefit wheat management.

The research project will also look at other nutrients, specifically links between nitrogen and sulfur rates. Sulfur deficiency can adversely affect wheat.

Maharjan said the researchers hope the two-year project will not only answer questions about how factors such as fertilizer timing and precipitation affect grain protein levels, but also will show whether crop sensing can be used as a management tool for fertilizer management in wheat.

“Provided all goes well and we get good data, in two years we will understand a lot about management for optimum yield and protein,” he said, adding that precipitation variation also will be tracked at one of the sites, hopefully providing insight into how fertilizer management is related and can be adjusted to weather.

The grants will provide funding for a graduate student whose time will be dedicated completely to the protein project, Maharjan said. The student will start in the spring of 2019. The plots will be planted in September this year.