May 17 field day to highlight wheat research impact on food supply

Improvements equal to 3 billion-plus loaves of bread annually

Writer: Kay Ledbetter, 806-677-5608, skledbetter@ag.tamu.edu
Contact: Dr. Jackie Rudd, 806-677-5600, jcrudd@ag.tamu.edu

AMARILLO – At least 3 billion loaves of bread in the Texas Panhandle alone every year – that’s the difference Texas A&M AgriLife Research is making, according to hosts of the annual Wheat Field Day.

Texas A&M AgriLife Research irrigated wheat plots near Bushland look good as the May 17 Wheat Field Day approaches. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Jason Baker)

Wheat research, and the difference it makes in the food supply chain, will be highlighted during the annual field day May 17 at the Texas A&M AgriLife facilities near Bushland.

“This year we want to invite the general public, along with producers, seed dealers and other key business associates, to come see our latest research in the fields and also see the difference it makes throughout our community and region,” said Dr. Jackie Rudd, AgriLife Research wheat breeder in Amarillo.

AgriLife Research is co-hosting the event with the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service, the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and West Texas A&M University.

The field day is free and will include breakfast tacos, sponsored by Texas Wheat Producers Board, and a lunch, sponsored by the USDA-ARS Ogallala Aquifer program.

“We are very excited this year to show off our new hybrid wheat research, discuss the latest genetic discoveries and let producers walk through our field trials to see how different varieties are performing,” Rudd said.

Additionally, attendees will get a chance to spend an hour viewing booths ranging from Texas Wheat’s display for producers and consumers to United Supermarkets’ explanation of what types of wheat flour are used to make products ranging from desserts to tortillas to bread. AgriLife Extension will host a display, Going with the Grains, focusing on the value and importance of wheat in the diet.

Rudd said wheat breeding research and studies surrounding production practices of the crop have been conducted there since the 1940s. During that time, tremendous strides have been made to improve yields, drought resistance, insect and disease control, and production practices in general.

Since it started near Bushland, wheat research has improved dryland yields in farmers’ fields from about 11 bushels per acre in the 1940s to more than 36 bushels per acre average today, he said.

With a bushel of wheat yielding 42 pounds of flour and making 90 loaves of bread, every acre of wheat is producing about 2,250 more loaves of bread annually. There are about 1.34 million acres of wheat harvested in the Texas Panhandle alone.

“Sometimes we don’t do a good job of letting our neighbors and community know what is going on out on the research farm and what an impact it has on not only this region, but the nation and world,” Rudd said. “We hope this event will help us reach out to more people and explain the importance of the work being done here.”

Some highlights of the noon program will be Texas Wheat’s Role in the World by Steelee Fischbacher, Texas Wheat Producers Board director of policy and marketing in Amarillo, and Valuing Wheat Quality by Dave Green, the Wheat Quality Council executive vice president in Lenexa, Kansas.

In addition to variety trials, one of the tour stops will include discussion about how wheat breeders look for new and helpful traits by looking back to wheat relatives that might be considered weeds, Rudd said.

Presentations will also cover water-use savings, wheat curl mite issues, residue management for water conservation, management issues and genomics.

Once the tours are over, Dr. Ron French, AgriLife Extension plant pathologist, and Dr. Ed Bynum, AgriLife Extension entomologist, both in Amarillo, will be available to discuss disease and pest issues. Producers are welcome to bring samples for one-on-one consultations.

For more information, contact Rudd or Shannon Baker at 806-677-5600.

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