Wheat seed supply is very tight this fall, largely a byproduct of inclement weather last fall, which restricted and delayed seedbed preparation (and all other farming operations), ultimately reducing wheat plantings and seed production, as well as the unpredictability of crop acreage change.

Since intentions for wheat plantings far exceed the availability of best varieties, management will play an even more important role in the profitability of this crop.

Variety selection

The first order of business is to do is make sure your seed is an adapted variety, let alone a top-performer. Since interest in wheat production far exceeds seed supply, many folks have questioned about growing wheat varieties from other regions, particularly varieties from the soft red winter wheat growing region north of us.

Wheat varieties are bred and adapted to perform in a specific environment. The winter wheat climate changes considerably from the Deep South, the Mid-South and the Ohio-River Valley, and correspondingly wheat varieties are largely exclusively adapted for each of those regions.

Not only will varieties generally lose substantial productivity when they are grown beyond their adapted region, but they are also prone to severe crop failure.

Varieties adapted south of your locale are more likely to experience severe spring freeze damage because they generally head earlier. Varieties adapted north of your locale may not accumulate enough cold temperature (<50 degrees F) during the winter to stimulate reproductive development during the spring — a process called vernalization.

If we experience a brief or warm winter, northern varieties may fail to completely vernalize. This means plants simply fail to head and cause a catastrophic loss.

Another issue is that wheat varieties commonly have different photoperiod requirements to stimulate heading. Thus, a northern variety may not meet its photoperiod requirement to head until several weeks beyond our normal heading dates. Correspondingly, productivity will suffer significantly because it will try to fill grain when temperatures are much higher than normal in the region it was bred to grow.

A good rule of thumb for Mississippi is that if a wheat variety has not been tested in the Mississippi State University variety trials and/or other adjoining states at similar latitude as your farm, it likely will not be well-adapted.

A short list of variety suggestions for 2010 can be found at: 2010 MSU Wheat Variety Suggestions.

Editor’s note: This article appeared in the Sept. 24, 2010, issue of Mississippi Crop Situation 2010.

elarson@pss.msstate.edu