When it comes to deciding which hybrids to plant, there is a saying among savvy Midwest corn growers: If getting the best yields this year is unimportant to you, plant last year’s winning hybrid. Their point is that successive years never present the same growing conditions. Sometimes the rains come precisely when needed, other times it seems the rain will never come. The conditions that were optimal for one hybrid last year will not be here this year. The same thing holds true for every other crop. One way or another, it’s a universal truth: Don’t chase last year. That adage also applies when selecting wheat varieties and wheat seed treatments.
Now is the time to evaluate wheat varieties for fall planting to understand how each varietal genetic package relates to local conditions. To some extent, the strengths and weaknesses of a variety will dictate the appropriate seed treatment. Rust continues to develop new races no longer susceptible to older varieties. TAM 111 wheat, for example, possesses leaf rust resistance genes but leaf rust races prevalent in the southern Great Plains have overcome them. Breeders are doing a fantastic job of staying ahead of that and a pretty good job of staying ahead of changing insect and disease pressures. Consider the genetic strengths of a variety when choosing seed treatments. Design your seed package to enable genetics and seed treatments to compliment each other.
Growers who stay with the same variety year after year can wake up one day and realize it is not doing what it did several years ago. Different geographical areas have different situations. For example, TAM 111 used to be the most widely planted variety in Texas, but this year Texas A&M crop advisors say to take TAM 111 off growers pick list because its rust resistance was no longer up to standards. “If rust is showing up in your area, it is time to look for a new variety,” university crop advisors are now telling farmers. The fatal flaw with varieties with genetic resistance is that they are in effect promoting a natural selection process that favors pest races and strains that can reproduce on a formerly resistant crop.
Customize seed treatments to complement the strengths and weaknesses in your wheat genetics. Evaluate seed treatments as carefully as you evaluate wheat varieties and use them in suppressing early season foliar diseases in conjunction with those varieties. The key thing is to make sure the treatment has the chemistries appropriate for your local environment. Don’t chase this year’s insect and disease threats with last year’s solutions.