With 2011 going into the record books as one of the driest in the southern High Plains, many dryland wheat acres were abandoned and irrigated yields suffered as producers had to allocate water to other crops, says Texas AgriLife Extension Service Agronomist Brent Bean.

Bean says insect infestation and disease infections were low throughout most of the region and only a few low-lying fields in the southwest Texas Panhandle were damaged from freeze injury. So the biggest contributor to the wheat crop’s demise was drought.

However, AgriLife Extension was still able to gain much data from variety trials across the region that will be useful as producers begin planning the new crop.

Seven of the nine dryland trials planted were harvested, as were trials at six irrigated locations around the southern High Plains and the New Mexico State University station near Clovis, NM. Across the region, most harvested wheat fields were planted late on land fallowed in 2010, Bean says.

Irrigated wheat didn’t fair much better than dryland. Yields were down because many producers had to quit watering wheat early to concentrate their irrigation water on establishing corn or cotton. Compounding the drought conditions in the irrigated variety trials were hot air temperatures during flowering and late freeze damage that pushed yields even lower, Bean says.

The highest average yields, 67 bu./acre, were recorded in the Dimmitt, TX trial. Three varieties – TAM 112, Winterhawk and TAM 113 – yielded in the top 25% at five of the six locations.

“This is only the second year we have had Winterhawk, a Westbred variety, in our trials,” Bean says. “TAM 113 was released this year by Texas AgriLife Research and will not be commercially available until 2012.”

Bean says other top varieties were TAM 111, OKO7209 – an Oklahoma State University experimental – Duster and Bill Brown. Noteworthy also were Hatcher and the AgriLife Research experimental TX05A001188.

In the dryland trials, the lowest average yield, 12.1 bu./acre, was at Etter, TX, and the highest average yield, 34.7 bu., was at the Groom, TX, location. All of the dryland locations were on fallowed land. Those locations in the eastern Texas Panhandle that yielded the highest greatly benefitted from a late fall rain, Bean says.

Growers are advised to check their own regional wheat variety trials to learn which new wheat lines are proving themselves in their growing conditions.