By Jordan Hildebrand
From phonographs to iPods and horse-drawn carriages to four-wheel drives, much has changed dramatically over the last century, the wheat industry included. Kansas State University released its first variety, Kanred, 100 years ago. Now, a century later, K-State, in conjunction with the Kansas Wheat Alliance, is unveiling its latest variety, KanMark.
KanMark, a direct descendent from Kanred, is the culmination of a century of wheat research in a seed. According to Allan Fritz, a K-State wheat breeder, the new variety's most desirable trait is its reliability under moderate drought.
This variety, which Fritz calls a "workhorse," results in remarkably consistent yields with less than favorable water inputs, and is targeted primarily toward growers in the western region of the state. Fritz believes that the variety would also perform well in central Kansas, but warns that it is moderately susceptible to acidic soils and susceptible to scab, so farmers in that central region are encouraged to take necessary precautions.
Since K-State is celebrating a century of wheat variety releases, much thought went into the KanMark name. The moniker pays tribute to that first wheat variety by drawing the Kan, but it also pays respects to the researcher responsible for Kanred. Mark Carleton was a wheat researcher employed by K-State who originally brought back varieties from Russia and used those to breed Kanred. Carleton was also the first president of the American Society of Agronomy. His contributions to the U.S. wheat industry were significant.
KanMark also boasts resistance to stripe rust, leaf rust and soil-borne mosaic virus. However, this variety is susceptible to Hessian fly and moderately susceptible to powdery mildew and tan spot.
"I'm excited for this variety because it's well adapted for a large part of the state," said Daryl Strouts, president of the Kansas Wheat Alliance. "And this is really the first step in multi-gene resistance to leaf and stripe rust, which is an exciting glimpse into future varieties."
The new variety's performance under irrigated conditions is also notable. The two-year irrigated average in western Kansas was 99.4 bushels an acre, but four-year dryland average in western Kansas was 49.9 bushels an acre. The three-year average for central Kansas was 49.2 bushels an acre.
"It tends to be toward the top of the tests every time," said Fritz. "Maybe not right at the top, but always up there. But it's very consistent, and I think that's very valuable."
KanMark is the product of a three way cross and was originally bred for resistance for leaf and stripe rust. Its pedigree includes lines from Parula, Pastor and Karl 92. Fritz added that this is a very short-statured, upright variety and that the producer may not see much of a canopy, but he warns not to judge it until it comes across the scale.
"I've always thought this was an ugly duckling wheat," said Fritz. "But we're not here to release bouquet wheat, we're here to release varieties that will make money for producers, and I think it will do that."
Hildebrand writes for Kansas Wheat, the combined organizations of the Kansas Wheat Commission and the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers.