Brief moments of providence in our daily lives can take our breath away – the sun breaking through the clouds after a storm or a newborn calf standing for the first time. For K-State wheat breeder Allan Fritz, those moments happen in the wheat fields, selecting breeding lines that show enough promise or durability to become the next great wheat variety. And from a disastrous accidental chemical application to a spiraling breeding program, Kansas State University’s next hard red winter wheat variety has officially arrived – KS13DH0041-35.
“We are extremely excited to announce the advancement of the KS13DH0041-35 line for release as an official variety,” said Fritz. “It is through divine providence and constant vigilance that this yet-to-be-named HRW variety is now ready to go to work for Kansas wheat farmers.
In 2014, soybeans planted before the wheat trials at Ashland were sprayed with what was supposed to be a routine herbicide. But the chemical was contaminated, which was extremely detrimental to wheat production the following year. Fritz lamented that the program lost essentially half of the draft program there in 2015.
“I always have this prayer about, ‘Please, my God, just show me the plants that are here that I should see. Draw my attention to the things that are unique, that have value, that have value,” Fritz said. “That year was more, ‘Just leave something here that has value and can be useful to our growers.'”
And there was. With only 47 rows of heads in its population field, a doubled haploid line survived the chemical application. Fritz only kept three of those 47 rows of heads from that population in addition to other material from the Ashland location to progress through the K-State breeding program.
“After a few years he was beating everything and doing it consistently,” Fritz said. “When we got to the elite tests, he won the K-State breeding program elite test by three to five bushels per acre for three straight years.”
As with all new varieties, Fritz and the K-State wheat breeding team put this new line to the test. The upcoming variety has a higher average yield than commercial checks tested over the past three years. Yield potential is way up, beating Zenda by 10 bushels per acre over the past two years and Bob Dole by seven bushels per acre.
The line is higher, but not Bob Dole, with excellent straw resistance. The line also shows excellent resistance to leaf rust, good resistance to bronze spot and intermediate resistance to Fusarium head blight and stripe rust. Farinograph stability is below target but it maintained good loaf volumes and holds protein well.
The upcoming variety has also performed well in a multitude of crop rotations and management styles, including planting after soybeans as well as after corn and in conventional and no-till programs. The line is only intermediate on acidic soils, so it is not suitable for low pH soils.
“It’s just an overall workhorse strain that’s what you’d want as a base for your production,” Fritz said.
As this line progressed through the breeding program to become an officially released variety, its durability also provided Fritz with a constant reminder of the power of faith as his wife’s dementia praecox progressed.
“Growing up on a farm, there’s this whole realization that you can do everything right. You can make all the best plans, you can fertilize properly, but you’re still at the mercy of the weather and all those things,” Fritz said. “We rely on something beyond what we can do ourselves.”
Although no one can control the weather, the K-State Wheat Breeding Program—supported by a collaboration between K-State, the Kansas Wheat Commission, and the Kansas Wheat Alliance—is working to prepare growers for agronomic success. Funding from wheat growers is used for program operations, including staff time to plant and harvest more than 20,000 yield plots per year, equipment purchases and maintenance, and travel to plots like those of Ashland. The partnership also supports the adoption of new technologies to reduce development time, such as the doubled haploid process that produced this new variety.
Combined, this work results in tested varieties that serve growers for years. Fritz compared this latest release to others in the K-State program that have led the state in production, quality and acreage, including Overly, Fuller, Everest and Bob Dole.
“There’s just been this flow of material through the breeding program, and it’s always fascinating for me to look back at the pedigrees and see the parents that are doing and how they become the basis for the next series. of varieties,” Fritz said, attributing the continued work to himself and former K-State wheat breeders like Rollie Sears and Elmer Heyne. “You see this flow of effort and work to continually push the crop forward to create better strains.”
“For me, in my program, in my career, I found providence in that variety as the culmination of that effort. With all of this history, I believe this strain has tremendous value for our growers.