AgSense: Planting plans should begin before harvest

By Rex Kirksey: Guest columnist

As the wheat harvest approaches, we all hope the threat of hail holds off for at least a few more weeks. But, even before this year’s wheat crop is out of the field, planting plans for next fall should be well under way. Proper variety selection is one management tool that will help maximize a crop’s yield potential.

Researchers at the New Mexico State University Agricultural Science Center at Clovis have been conducting winter wheat variety tests for more than 50 years. These tests, conducted under irrigated and dryland conditions, can be a valuable resource in helping area growers select wheat varieties that are adapted to local growing conditions.
Recent variety tests at Clovis have shown tremendous differences in the grain yield of wheat varieties. The 2004 dryland wheat test produced a mean grain yield of 11.3 bushels per acre, but yields ranged from 4 to 22 bushels. In 2005, an excellent year for dryland wheat, the dryland test had an average grain yield of 51 bushels per acre, and ranged from 41 to 63 bushels.

Irrigated wheat tests produced average yields of 77 and 67 bushels per acre in 2004 and 2005, respectively. Yields, by variety, ranged from 65 to 87 bushels per acre in 2004, and from 41 to 96 bushels per acre in 2005.

When selecting a variety for planting this fall, it would be wise to select a variety that has demonstrated potential to be a top producer in our area. Yield data for the 2004 and 2005 winter wheat variety trials at Clovis are available on the center’s Web site at

Yield results for 2006 will be available on the same center’s Web site soon after harvest later this month.

When making variety selection decisions, it is desirable to make those decisions based on a variety’s performance at multiple locations over multiple years. To assist local growers in accessing this type of data, the Agricultural Science Center at Clovis, in 2004, joined the Texas Uniform Wheat Variety Trial program.

The Texas testing program compiles grain yield data from the Clovis center with multiple sites in the Texas High Plains to provide a consolidated report for winter wheat grain yields from multiple years and multiple locations. Summary data from these trials are available at

When making planting decisions, growers should always obtain and plant seed of known origin and quality. Be cautious of planting farmer held or elevator run seed. Although this practice has the potential to save a few dollars per acre in seed cost, there are many possible negative consequences.

The spread of jointed goat grass and other noxious weeds is largely attributed to the use of bin run or poorly cleaned wheat seed. Germination percentage may not be known for wheat from an unknown origin. Even if seed has been cleaned and tested for germination, seed that is smaller in size as a result of harvest in a drought year, or that has been in bin storage for a period of time, may not have the seedling viability necessary to get the crop off to a good start.

In any particular year, there may be a difference of around 20 bushels per acre between the grain yield of the top-producing and bottom-producing wheat varieties. The selection of varieties that have a high demonstrated yield potential is a wise production management decision.

Rex E. Kirksey is superintendent of New Mexico State University Agricultural Science Center at Clovis. Contact him at 985-2292 or by e-mail: