Doug Munier, Glenn County farm advisor, and Cass Mutters, Butte County farm advisor, tested over 35 different wheat varieties at California State University, Chico's school farm this past year. Some of these are the currently available commercial varieties and others are promising experimental varieties.
The same wheat varieties were also tested during 2002 in trials in Colusa County, the Delta, and at the UC Davis school farm, according to the Glenn County Extension office in Orland. Many of these varieties were tested in previous years at all of these locations.
An experimental wheat variety must be carefully tested over several years to determine if it is better than existing varieties. UC Cooperative Extension is committed to testing all available wheat varieties each year in several locations over the Sacramento Valley. The best varieties, on average, do well over several years and across many different locations.
According to Munier, most wheat growers will probably be choosing between Express and Summit. Barley growers will probably choose between UC 933 and UC 937.
One of the more recent wheat varieties, Bonus, with previously good resistance to new races of wheat stripe rust, unfortunately had high levels of stripe rust in many Delta wheat fields this past year. Disease tolerance by varieties can change quickly, which makes variety testing all the more important.
The two new University of California barley varieties, UC 933 and UC 937, have greatly improved leaf disease resistance. As long as this disease resistance holds up, it makes barley an option for Sacramento Valley small grain growers.
Wheat and barley are good rotational crops in the Sacramento Valley, if a grower can grow it at the current prices. The soil improvement from a wheat or barley crop and the benefit to subsequent crops should be considered.
Watch for a Glenn County UC Cooperative Extension Field Crops newsletter with wheat and barley variety trial results for all the UC Cooperative Extension trials done in the Sacramento Valley. If you are not on the UC Extension field crops mailing list, please call (530) 865-1107 to be added.