May 11, 2015

In This Edition

Spot a problem?  Send it to MSU's diagnostic lab compliments of Michigan Wheat Program

Farmers who see an unusual problem with wheat this spring - or anytime before harvest - should consider sending a sample to Michigan State University's Plant Diagnostic Lab, located in East Lansing.

Since 2012, the Michigan Wheat Program has had an innovative partnership with the lab that covers the cost of evaluating samples of ailing wheat for farmers. 

Not only will farmers have a rapid response to problems associated with disease, insects, nematodes, virus, nutrient and physiological issues, but the wheat program benefits by having a central clearinghouse of information about emerging problems with the Michigan wheat crop.

Annual results collected by the lab help the wheat check-off board tailor future research projects to meet ever-changing needs in the field and to stay ahead of future challenges.

The form and directions for sample submittal can be found on the Michigan Wheat Program website at under the “What’s Hot” column on the left margin.

Michigan Wheat Program's 2015 research line-up announced!

The Michigan Wheat Program (MWP) has announced a slate of 13 projects for this fiscal year, which range from research on disease and weed control to innovations in breeding and high-management production techniques.

The board has been reviewing and approving projects on a “rolling” basis since fall 2014.

“Since the Michigan Wheat Program began in 2012 we have invested just over $1 million in nearly 50 projects, plus support for MSUE field researcher Martin Nagelkirk,” said David Milligan, the Cass City-area farmer who chairs the nine-member board.  “This is a very strong research program, especially for a new commodity organization, and a good use of farmers’ check-off funds."

“These projects are already yielding results that farmers are adopting in our own trials and routine management practices,” he concluded.

The current crop of wheat research projects includes:
  • "Impact of Tillage System and Weed Management Timing on Weed Control and Winter Wheat Yield – Dr. Christy Sprague, MSU  ($11,220).  Wheat farmers using no-till planting of winter wheat into soybean stubble need improved understanding of the economic benefits (if any) of fall herbicides.  While prior research shows fall- and spring-applied herbicides succeed in suppressing weeds, Sprague’s project will consider whether investing in additional herbicide applications is rewarded with increased wheat yields.  Sprague’s 2014-15 project seeks to answer this question using Affinity BroadSpec and Huskie on soft red winter wheat plots.
  • “Breeding Wheat for Fusarium Head Blight Resistance” – Dr. Mariam Sticklen, MSU  ($71,964).  Fusarium head blight (FHB) has plagued wheat for decades, and also brings mycotoxins into the grain.  No true FHB-resistant varieties exist, although some are less susceptible.  The FHB resistance trait has not been successfully transferred to the more desirable wheat strains, and incomplete mapping of the wheat genome has also delayed advancements.  Sticklen’s project aims to find a traditional hybrid solution to bring the resistance trait into the more desirable wheat varieties for Michigan.  The project will avoid the GMO path, which could make the resulting wheat varieties unsalable to many other countries.   This is a multi-year project.
  • “High-management Testing of Michigan Wheat Trials” – Dr. Eric Olson, MSU  ($20,000).  2014-15 will be the third consecutive year of high-management trials that accompany the Michigan State University Wheat Variety Trials.  Three years of trials will begin to provide farmers with sufficient data to make decisions about adopting high management production techniques, although 2014 trials were significantly winter-damaged in three sites.  Trials will again occur at five locations across lower Michigan.  Complete results of the first two years are available here.
  • “Rust-proofing Michigan Wheat” – Dr. Eric Olson and Christian Kapp, MSU  ($8,000).  In this project, Olson seeks to get ahead of a virulent strain of rust that is damaging wheat around the globe.  He cites international research from South Africa (2000) that indicated Ug99 stem rust had the potential to devastate 80 percent of wheat acreage worldwide.  In ongoing rust research at MSU, Olson is working to genotype current wheat strains and new varieties under development for the presence of Ug99 resistance.  The projects will screen about 2,500 lines of wheat in the Upper Peninsula and across lower Michigan.
  • “Yield Impacts of Oilseed Radish” – Dean Baas, MSU  ($9,424).  Since 2012 Baas and research partner Dale Mutch have been investigating a long-held belief of a few farmers:  That oilseed radish improves wheat yields when the two crops are planted simultaneously.  Early results showed positive results and the trials have been expanded to five locations across Michigan.  The project will continue in 2015, to examine the best radish seeding rate and analyze costs in light of increased yields, before in-field recommendations will be made.
  • “Characterization of Starches in Michigan Wheat Strains” – Dr. Perry K.W. Ng and Dr. Eric Olson, Michigan State University  ($65,440).  Starch content and types of starch (amylose vs. amylopectin) in a wheat strain, are important to industrial bakers and food ingredient buyers because they significantly impact the quality of value-added finished foods, and may impact health claims.  This project looks at total starch and amylose content of new Michigan-grown wheat varieties, which could develop significant marketing benefits.  The project will also identify promising starch traits earlier in the wheat breeding process to ensure new releases are suitable for the milling and end users located here.
  • “Genomic Selection, Population Parameter Assessment” – Dr. Eric Olson, MSU  ($48,000).  Genomic selection, an advanced screening system for new strains and varieties of plants and amimals, is being used to provide better focus in breeding corn, as well as in animal herd development.  Olson will utilize genomic selection techniques in wheat variety development, which has not yet become commonplace.  He will use genomic selection for early identification of wheat strains that have better potential for higher yields, disease resistance and other traits.  The work, supported by Michigan Wheat Program, will be part of the MSU Wheat Breeding and Genetics variety development program.
  • “Improving Management of Wheat Diseases, Short- and Long-Term Solutions” – Dr. Martin Chilvers, MSU  ($40,000).  Leveraging the research of Dr. Eric Olson, Lee SIler and several other researchers at MSU and Ohio State University, Chilvers will study several scientific aspects of disease control on Michigan wheat.  One key project is investigating the timing of six fungicide treatments around flowering to manage head scab on four wheat varieties.  Additionally, he will look at efficacy of a range of fungicides on wheat, screen wheat strains for resistance to Stagnospora blotch resistance, and collect inoculum of tan spot (Pyrenophora tritici-repentis) and use it to screen future breeding material.
  • “Winter Wheat Soil Fertility Systems:  Planting Date to Nitrogen Rate and Everything in Between” – Dr. Kurt Steinke, MSU  ($61,688).  In the third year of a multi-year project, Steinke will continue to look at the best combinations of wheat planting dates, and rates and timing of nitrogen fertilizer on soft red winter wheat.  He will also continue to evaluate the inclusion of Palisade plant growth regulator, which is believed to assist in nitrogen absorption and to prevent plant lodging.  Steinke's 2014 results found that best yields were seen at 105 lbs. and 135 lbs. of nitrogen per acre.  At the end of this season, Steinke anticipates recommending some best management practices for nitrogen for Michigan wheat farmers.  Nitrogen is the most limiting factor in wheat production, and farmers need more data about how best to apply it.
  • “Testing Soft White Spring Wheat Varieties in Michigan” – Dr. Eric Olson, MSU  ($10,000).  While Olson’s other projects look at red winter wheat, this research will evaluate the performance of 27 soft white winter wheat varieties at locations in Ingham and Tuscola counties.  MSU’s Wheat Breeding and Genetics Program has obtained 27 varieties of soft white spring wheat from breeding programs in the Pacific Northwest, and will study which varieties may be adaptable to Michigan.  Despite crop risk factors, soft white winter wheat is critical to a well-balanced wheat industry in Michigan.  Big manufacturers including Kellogg’s, Jiffy, Post, Nabisco and General Mills use soft white wheat and would like to source more of it in the state.  Olson’s project explores whether any of these strains offer Michigan wheat farmers improved winter hardiness, resistance to Fusarium and pre-harvest sprouting, high-yield qualities and other desirable traits.
  • “Using Cover Crops after Wheat to Improve Soil Health” – Dr. Kimberly Cassida, MSU  ($18,861).  Cassida’s year-two project seeks to improve the profitability of a wheat rotation, by investigating the productivity of cover crops in the 60-90 day fallow period following wheat harvest.  She will look at legumes, cool-season grass and warm-season grasses to both condition the soil, reduce wind and rain erosion, and to provide a double-crop income by producing salable forage.  Fallow land and frost-seeded red clover will serve as high and low controls, with Cassida’s eight cover crops likely to fall within this range of productivity.  While perennial red clover has been a popular cover crop, it must be killed with herbicide.  The eight cover crops in this project do not.
  • In-Field Coordinator – Martin Nagelkirk, MSUE  ($23,658).  As Senior Extension Educator at MSUE, Nagelkirk is a liaison for Michigan Wheat Program-funded projects and communicates research projects and crop outlooks on a regular basis.  Nagelkirk also plants and maintains his own research plots.
Some of the Michigan Wheat Program’s 2014-15 research projects got underway last fall and others will launch in the next several weeks, according to MWP executive director Jody Pollok-Newsom.


Wheat farmers needed for on-farm trials

On-farm trials are the keys to learning more about profitable wheat production, as it’s not enough to observe responses in small plots in just a couple of locations.  What’s needed is for farmers to collaborate on research to help develop “ground-truth” suggestions by researchers.
MSU Extension wheat expert Martin Nagelkirk is currently recruiting farmer-collaborators around the state for one specific trial.  It is a ramp-up study where each treatment introduces an additional input.  The purpose is to record the effect of selected inputs on wheat yields and income from several farms.

There are four treatments in this proposed study:
  1. Standard program;
  2. Standard with fungicide;
  3. Standard with fungicide and extra nitrogen; and
  4. Standard with fungicide, extra nitrogen and Palisade.
Wheat farmers interested in participating should contact Nagelkirk to discuss the trial and receive a detailed description.  Email him at  or call his cell at 810.404.3400.


Be on the look-out for wheat stripe rust

The MSU Wheat Breeding team is calling on all Michigan wheat farmers to be on the look-out for wheat stripe (yellow) rust in Michigan fields during May and June.
The team will be surveying Michigan for the disease and is asking farmers for help tracking its development across the state.  Wheat stripe rust is caused by the fungal pathogen (Puccinia striiformis f. sp. tritici) and thrives in cool, humid environments.
Characteristic signs and symptoms of stripe rust include parallel yellow stripes that follow leaf venation (See photo.)
If you observe wheat stripe rust in your field this year and are willing to contribute to the MSU wheat stripe rust survey, please contact Andrew Wiersma at (616) 773-9521 or
In a typical year, the development of wheat stripe rust in Southern states predicts development of the disease in Northern states because the rust spores ride the wind currents north.  This year, stripe rust was first detected in Texas and Louisiana in late January.
More recently, stripe rust has been active across large areas of Arkansas.
While there is no way to accurately predict disease development in Michigan, there is potential for increased stripe rust incidence on susceptible wheat varieties.  In addition to monitoring the spread of stripe rust, the MSU Wheat Breeding team is also interested in determining which stripe rust pathotypes are present in Michigan. This will help breed wheat that’s more resistant to stripe rust in this region.


Michigan-Ohio-Ontario collaboration on horizon?

The Michigan Wheat Program is exploring common interests and goals with wheat leaders from Ohio and Ontario, to see if opportunities exist for collaboration.

During the Commodity Classic in March 2014, leaders in these similar wheat production regions held a get-to-know-you meeting.  It went well, and the leaders met again this winter at Cabela’s in Michigan.

Because the three wheat-production regions have comparable weather, soil and market opportunities, it’s possible that their research needs could overlap, as well.

The next step in the process is to seek some regional project proposals and develop a funding mechanism so all three can participate.


USDA reminds farmers to certify conservation compliance by June 1

The USDA has issued a reminder to farmers that the 2014 Farm Bill now requires them to file a Highly Erodible Land Conservation and Wetland Conservation Certification form with their local USDA service center by June 1, 2015.  This filing is required to remain eligible for crop insurance premium support through the 2016 reinsurance year, which begins July 1, 2015.

Most farmers already have a certification form on file since it’s required for participation in most USDA programs such as marketing assistance loans, farm storage facility loans and disaster assistance.

Producers should visit their local USDA service center and talk with their crop insurance agent before June 1st to get questions answered.  USDA will publish a rule outlining the linkage of conservation compliance with federal crop insurance premium support.  The rule can be viewed at
The Highly Erodible Land Conservation and Wetland Conservation Certification form is available at local USDA service center or online at
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