'Hayden wheat' shows promise

Test plots regularly produce hardy crop

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— A winter wheat that has been genetically modified to grow strong in the Yampa Valley is showing solid results.

The crop is a red winter wheat that was developed in Idaho and has been named "Hayden wheat."

"We've been planting it in test plots for about five years," Extension Agent C.J. Mucklow said.

The test plots near the Yampa Valley Regional Airport outside Hayden produced good crops.

Hayden wheat's biggest asset to local farmers is that it's resistant to the fungus disease dwarf bunt, which can ruin crops.

"It's genetically modified in the old-fashion way," Mucklow said.

That means wheat plants strong enough to overcome the fungus disease were singled out in test plots.

Unlike breadbasket states that have less of a problem, wheat in the Yampa Valley is known for being susceptible to dwarf bunt.

Because of the disease, farmers in Routt County can't use seed from Nebraska and Kansas, for example, that have proven high-yield capabilities.

Another benefit of Hayden wheat is that it has proven to give higher yields when grown under dry-land management practices in northwestern Colorado. Also, Mucklow said, the grain produces a product that has good baking quality.

He hopes that the introduction of the Hayden wheat will give local farmers a better chance at producing a good crop.

Right now, wheat grown in Routt County makes up less than 1 percent of all the wheat in Colorado. Hayden wheat may help change that, Mucklow said.

Last fall, Mike Williams planted the Hayden wheat on 45 acres of his land.

"It looks really good," he said. "I have a pretty nice stand where I planted it and it looks like it will be a good crop."

Williams followed the progress of the wheat in the five-acre test plots and was impressed with the results.

"I'm anxious to see if it will do that on a large scale," he said.

Williams has been farming for about six years on the land that his father farmed before him. In addition to the Hayden wheat, he has been trying other crops. For the third year in a row he worked safflower into his planting rotation.

"The biggest benefit I see in it is that it gives me a chance to control weeds," he said.

Safflower is used for bird seed, as well as for canola oil. In addition to controlling weeds, planting the crop is good for the ground and is supposed to improve winter wheat yield by 10 percent.

"I'm pretty sure I've seen that," Williams said. "But it's hard to say if it would do that every year."

Williams also is experimenting with planting the winter wheat right into the safflower stubble.

"That opens up a minimal-kill type of situation," he said.

Colorado State University Extension Office officials like Mucklow are looking at a number of different crops that could give farmers in Routt County an alternative yield.

For example, they're working with a 65-day corn crop, barley and winter and spring wheat of all types.

"We're just going after about anything," Mucklow said.

To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4206 or e-mail dcrowl@amigo.net

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