Growers are excited about a new variety of hard red spring wheat that developers call “a complete package” of a high-yielding, high-quality crop that is resistant to pests and diseases and adaptable to the nuances of dryland farming.
“Hale” was created by Michael O. Pumphrey, a wheat breeder and associated professor at Washington State University, and recently approved by a university review committee. The new variety possibly will be available to wheat growers in one or two more seasons.
“It’s just an all-around improvement for hard red spring wheat,” Pumphrey said. “Farmers often have to make a nuanced decision” about whether to go with varieties that are more resistant to pests and diseases or variations in weather and soil temperature. Hale, Pumphrey said, combines all those qualities in a single variety, eliminating the need to choose between desirable characteristics.
“It’s rare that we can get all we want in a single package,” he said. “When you have something that checks off this many boxes, it takes a lot of risk out of the decisions. (Hale) is productive in many areas. It’s good for the miller, good for the farmer and bad for diseases.”
Hard red wheat is a high-end product and considered “the Cadillac” of bread flours, he said. Whereas much of the soft white and club wheat produced in the Pacific Northwest is exported, hard red wheat is sold both overseas and domestically.
Stephen Van Vleet, WSU Extension educator for Whitman County, said farmers are enthusiastic about the new variety.
“It’s brand new, and it won’t be in farmers’ hands right now, but the excitement is incredible,” Van Vleet said. “It’s a spring wheat that is resistant to Hessian fly that can be a real problem in spring wheat. It has fantastic qualities and outyields other varieties. It’s really something that the industry is waiting for.”
In the meantime, Van Vleet said earlier this month that the winter wheat crop seems to have come through the season in good shape and — barring any cold frosts ahead — promises good yields.
“We did have some really cold temperatures and not a lot of snow cover,” he said. “So that did burn the edges of some of the wheat, but it didn’t damage it. Overall the wheat is doing very well. If we got a real cold snap now that it’s been warm and growing, that’s when it would be a problem.
“But the soil moisture is good everywhere, and people are getting a little nervous, wanting to get spring wheat in, even though it’s too early right now.”
Hedberg may be contacted at email@example.com or (208) 983-2326.