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Kansas Wheat Yield Contest winners announced


Three Kansas wheat farmers have each earned $1,000 by winning their respective regions in the 2012 Kansas Wheat Yield Contest.

John Niswonger Wallace, harvested 84.65 bushels per acre with a field of the white wheat variety Snowmass to win the Western Kansas Region. Snowmass comes from Plains Gold. Ron Ohlde, Palmer, harvested 84.05 bushels per acre with the Kansas Wheat Alliance variety Everest to win the Central Kansas Region. Steve Tuttle, Basehor, achieved 67.36 bushels per acre with Everest to win the Eastern Kansas Region.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is expected to present prize checks and plaques to the winners at the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson. The brief presentation occurs at 2:30 p.m. Sept. 13 at the Kansas Wheat Exhibit inside the Pride of Kansas Building.

"The Kansas Wheat Yield Contest is teaching us that farmers who manage their wheat with a bit more intensity can achieve top yields, even when Mother Nature is not completely cooperative," says Justin Gilpin, chief executive officer of Kansas Wheat, the joint agreement between the Kansas Wheat Commission and Kansas Association of Wheat Growers. "Kansas farmers continue to prove that they can grow abundant supplies of the world's highest quality wheat."

Cash prizes of $1,000 come from Kansas Wheat and BASF, the corporate sponsor of the Kansas Wheat Yield Contest. In addition, the Kansas Wheat Alliance and Plains Gold will provide bonus cash awards to each winner. Other sponsors include Syngenta, Bayer CropScience and Monsanto.

More information about the winning yield entries follows.

Western Kansas: John Niswonger, Wallace

At planting, John Niswonger's goals for his 2012 wheat crop were pretty high: he fertilized for 100 bushels per acre. Mother Nature, however, had different plans.

"Our in-crop moisture was only about 4 inches," says Niswonger, who admits the right amount of rain came at the most opportune time, earning him the top yield in the 2012 Kansas Wheat Yield Contest. His 84.65 bushels was achieved with the variety Snowmass, from Plains Gold (formerly the Colorado Wheat Research Foundation).

Niswonger was fortunate that wheat was planted into moisture, thanks to opportune rains in August and September. He planted 75 pounds per acre, striving for 600 to 900 heads per square yard, a goal set by high-yield agronomist Phil Needham. The crop was planted into a cover crop mixture; Niswonger has no-tilled the contest field for four years.

Prior to planting, 24 pounds of UAN were applied with the burndown chemical application. Micronutrients were added with the seed at planting; these included 110 pounds of MESZ, TigerSol, cooper, manganese and zinc. Topdress fertilizer was split-applied, 45 pounds at greenup and 80 pounds at jointing. Niswonger used streamer bars for the topdress applications.

Ally was used as a post-emerge herbicide. Eight ounces of Twinline were applied at flagleaf.

To achieve top yields in western Kansas, Niswonger has strong beliefs. "No-till is a must, and managing crop fertility is the second most important factor," he says. "We can save and store subsoil moisture; the armor on top of the soil is key."

"Wheat is our main cash crop and it is the crop we do the best in," he says. "I think we can do even better, when the weather conditions are a little more favorable."

Yield: 84.65 bushels per acre

Variety: Snowmass, Plains Gold

Certified Seed Source: Sand Creek Farm

Central Region: Ron Ohlde, Palmer

Washington County farmer Ron Ohlde attributes top wheat yields to a "systems approach" of production that includes soil sampling, variety selection, seed treatments, fertilization and fungicide application.

Ohlde, whose family runs Ohlde Seed Farms near Palmer, begins the crop with top-quality certified seed that has been length-graded and treated with Servo DP. He plants 1.2 million seeds per acre, with a goal of getting two- to three-tillers per plant

Herbicide application depends on what the plans are after wheat: if he wants to be able to plant double-crop beans after wheat harvest, he uses a contact herbicide. Otherwise, Finesse and 2,4-D are used most of the time.

"We're in a good area that receives adequate rainfall most years," Ohlde says. "We can kind of push the envelope a bit when it comes to wheat yields. Most of the time it pays off."

The contest field had been no-tilled for nine years. He applied 120 pounds of dry fertilizer along with eight pounds of sulfur and three-quarter pounds of zinc prior to planting; and topdressed with 30 gallons of 28% per acre plus about seven gallons of chloride.

Fungicide applications included four ounces of Headline at greenup in the spring, and additional 14 ounces of Quilt at flagleaf.

Participation in the Kansas Wheat Yield Contest gives Ohlde a chance to compare his operation to others. "I love to see how my operation stacks up. It boils down to testing. You've got to test varieties, fertilizer types and rates. Every field and every operation is different, but we can learn from each other," he says.

Yield: 84.05 bushels per acre

Variety: Everest, Kansas Wheat Alliance

Certified Seed Source: Ohlde Seed Farms

Eastern Region: Stephen Tuttle, Basehor

Wheat plays an important role in Stephen Tuttle's farm operation near Basehor. It provides summer income from grain and straw, and provides an excellent rotation crop between corn and soybeans. A strict no-till operator, Tuttle says the combination of no-till and standing wheat straw prevents soil erosion on his sloping fields.

"Wheat gives us the chance to control diseases and provide a seedbed for soybeans right behind the wheat," says Tuttle, whose 2012 contest entry was a field of Everest that yielded 67.36 bushels per acre.

"I was actually a little disappointed in that field," says Tuttle, whose crop was at mid-flowering when it was nipped by an April frost. "I thought we could have gotten another 10 bushels per acre out of that field."

Prior to planting, Tuttle sets a yield goal of about 70 bushels per acre. He buys certified seed that has been run over a gravity table, treating it with Cruiser and Dividend Extreme, planting 100 pounds of seed per acre.

Fertilizer is applied based on every-other-year soil tests, which last fall recommended 50 pounds of 18-6-0 pre-plant. Tuttle supplemented that with 50 pounds of potassium pre-plant. That field was topdressed with 150 pounds of 46-0-0. He applied 7 ounces of Twinline fungicide when the crop had reached the Feekes 10.1 growth stage.

The Yield Contest, he reckons, provided a good incentive to push yields on his wheat acreage, and learn new management skills. "I wanted to learn better production practices that can help improve yields in future wheat crops," Tuttle says.

Yield: 67.36 bushels per acre

Wheat Variety: Everest, Kansas Wheat Alliance

Certified Seed Source: Taylor Seed Farms

Quality Initiative: Tom Austin, Minneapolis

The 2012 Yield Contest also features a quality component that measures protein, test weight and milling and baking quality. Tom Austin, Minneapolis, won the 2012 Quality Initiative with the Westbred variety Armour and as such, will receive a $250 cash prize. Austin's sample featured 62 pound test weight, 10.92 protein, plus excellent mill and bake characteristics, with an emphasis on dough mix times, strength and loaf volume.

"The milling industry is dependent upon high-quality wheat grown in Kansas. The Kansas Wheat Yield Contest Quality Initiative highlights the genetics and farming practices deliver high quality products to the milling industry," Gilpin says.

The quality evaluation was conducted at the ADM Milling Quality Laboratory in Overland Park. ADM and Kansas Wheat Commission sponsor the Quality Initiative.

The Kansas Wheat Commission is a grower-funded, grower-governed advocacy organization working to secure the future of Kansas wheat in the global market through research, education and market development. It is funded by a voluntary 1.5 cent assessment on each bushel of wheat produced in Kansas.

Date: 9/3/2012


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