In an effort to increase U.S. wheat production, the National Association of Wheat Growers announced a new national wheat yield contest during the 2015 Commodity Classic in Phoenix.
"The goal of the contest is to increase U.S. wheat grower productivity to ensure ample supply of wheat to all of our millers, bakers and everybody that uses wheat in the United States," said Dusty Tallman, chairman of the National Wheat Foundation, the educational and leadership arm of the wheat industry.
Currently, a few states like Kentucky and Kansas have individual yield contests. NAWG has been visiting with those states as well as the National Corn Growers Association to develop the nationwide wheat yield contest. However, there are a few complications with rolling out this commodity contest.
"You have spring wheat and winter wheat," Tallman said. "There is dryland and irrigated. And there are six classes of wheat. We have to find rules that work across the board."
He anticipates that wheat growers participating in the contest by class, with one winner from each class. NAWG and the Foundation are also looking at putting in place localized and regional winners in addition to an overall national top yield winner.
Tallman said the organization wants to have the details firmed up for the contest launch this fall, however, he noted that the full program might not roll out until next spring.
Improving wheat yields
The objectives of the NAWG wheat yield contest is to drive innovation, provide knowledge transfer between growers, encourage experimentation with new technologies and ultimately identify the top wheat producers from each state.
BASF is the first national sponsor of the contest. "We are really pleased to be primary sponsor of the national wheat yield contest to help grower not only improve wheat productivity but also wheat revenue opportunities," Neil Bentley director of marketing with BASF, said. "It is initiatives like this for wheat growers across U.S. that really helps growers work with the innovations that can not only help them break through yield boundaries and barriers but also help them grow from one another."
Tallman noted that other commodity groups found that by having a yield contest the national average yield shifted to the high yields in contest. Improving yields may be one way to lure farmers back into planting more wheat acres.
Bringing back wheat acres
According to NAWG President Brett Blankenship, one of the long-term threats to wheat is loss of acres and loss of competitive advantage.
Wheat ranks third among U.S. field crops behind corn and soybeans in terms of both planted acreage and gross farm receipts, according to the USDA. Compounding the problem is that U.S. wheat harvest is down one-third, or close to 30 million acres, since its peak in 1981.
"We lost a lot of acres to other commodities," Blankenship said. He would like to see the slide in wheat acres stop and perhaps reverse. "We are hoping a method or tool like this would help get the competitive advantage back to wheat."