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What You Need To Know: Spring 2021 Variety Testing Update with Clark Neely

Posted by Blythe Howell | March 8, 2021

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For questions or comments, contact Clark Neely via email at

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Episode Transcription:

Drew Lyon: Hello. Welcome to the WSU Wheat Beat podcast. I’m your host, Drew Lyon, and I want to thank you for joining me as we explore the world of small grains production and research at Washington State University. In each episode, I speak with researchers from WSU and the USDA-ARS to provide you with insights into the latest research on wheat and barley production. If you enjoy the WSU Wheat Beat podcast do us a favor and subscribe on iTunes or your favorite podcasting app and leave us a review while you’re there so others can find the show too.

[ Music ]

Drew Lyon: My guest today is Dr. Clark Neely. Clark is an extension agronomist and the lead for the WSU Extension Cereal Variety Testing Program. He is based in Pullman with the Crop and Soil Sciences Department. He’s originally from South Central Pennsylvania where he grew up on a small family farm. He received degrees from Penn State, University of Idaho, and Texas A&M University. He was hired on at Texas A&M after completing his Ph.D. and worked there for six years as the statewide small grains and cool-season oilseed extension specialist before coming to WSU in 2019. His current research program is built around the Variety Testing Program with funded projects looking at the impact that wheat varieties have on soil microbial recruitment in the rhizosphere and possible wheat varietal impacts on subsequent canola production. Hello, Clark.

Dr. Clark Neely: Hi, Drew.

Drew Lyon: So, we’re going to talk about the spring program today. Can you kind of give us an update on how the spring trials went last year?

Dr. Clark Neely: Sure, Drew. Yeah, so despite the challenges with COVID-19, we still managed to get all of our work done. We planted our typical 18 spring wheat nursery locations. We had the typical players, WSU, U of I, we had one or two entries from the Western Wheat Quality Lab, and then we had four private companies. Limagrain, AgriPro, West Brand, and Cropland all contributed to the trials. So, we had if you totaled that all up, we had 13 commercial varieties, 3 of which were club wheats, we had 12 experimental soft whites, one of which, and one experimental club wheat. If you look at the hard spring wheat trial, we had 18 commercial varieties, 13 experimentally, one of which was a durum.

Drew Lyon: Okay. So, pretty good variety there. What are some of the newer spring wheat varieties that you’re testing your program and how are they faring compared to the old standbys?

Dr. Clark Neely: Well, so we didn’t have a lot of new entries in the soft white spring trial this year, aside from the advanced breeding lines that we put in. The newest soft white spring entries we have are AP Coachman, AP Mondovi CL2, and Hedge CL+. And we’ve tested all three of those for three years now. Some things to note, Hedge CL+, we’ve tested it for three years. The first two years, it was as an experimental number, so it was just released this past year and named Hedge CL+. Its prior designation was WA8295 CL+. So, if you’re going back looking at the data, that’s what to look for. But it’s important to point out Hedge, just because it’s unique in that it’s the only two gene Clearfield spring club wheat on the market right now. If you look at the hard red spring trial, WB9303 was the only true new variety that we had in the trial last year. We did have Cropland had previously tested CP3066 with us under an experimental number, but it was named last year. If you look at how they performed, you know, AP Coachman, AP Mondovi, Hedge CL+ have all held their own. They’ve done pretty well. If you looked at 9303 across the precipitation zones, it started out yielding close to the trial average in the high rainfall. But then as you decrease precipitation, it generally steadily moved towards the bottom of the trial in the lowest rainfall zone. It did have some redeeming qualities. It had really excellent test weight in protein. However, it wasn’t really any better than WB9668 if you want to compare the two for those two traits. And, yeah, I mentioned CP3066 yielded mostly below average, although it came pretty close to the trial average in the 12 to 16-inch precip zone. I mentioned Hedge CL+. If you look at its performance, basically all you need to know about it is that it’s JD with a clear field trait basically. They yield very, very similar to each other.

Drew Lyon: Okay. And this past year, correct me if I’m wrong, but it seemed like it was a really good year for spring wheat. We had the cooler than normal temperatures into the summer, had good rainfall fairly late into the season. Did varieties perform differently this year compared to some, some of the previous years?

Dr. Clark Neely: I didn’t see a whole lot of difference in the trends of the varieties. I think if you looked at AP Coachman, if I’m recalling right, it had a really good year in 2019, but we did see that one slip a little bit this past year, especially in an intermediate rainfall zone. But it did pretty much hold its own in like the 20 inch precip zone. You are right, in general, the yields were up across the board on the spring wheat trials. That was particularly noticeable in the driest, the low rainfall zones. The exception being Bickleton. Bickleton seemed to miss out on almost all the rain. So, they were still below average.

Drew Lyon: [ laughter ] Not unusual for Bickleton.

Dr. Clark Neely: Right, right. The test weights were kind of a mixed bag. We had some spots that improved, some not over the last year. Reardan really stood out as having the best test weight. The trial average was 64.2 in the soft white spring trial. And then you had Almira just down the road, and it averaged, had some of our lowest averages closer to 56, so it was quite, quite a bit lower. But, yeah, it was kind of a mixed bag as far as the test weights go.

Drew Lyon: Okay, what about the spring barley varieties? What are you testing there and anything new or interesting to talk about?

Dr. Clark Neely: Yeah, so on the barley side, we have a lot more changes. If you compare it to the previous years, we dropped some, like we didn’t have AAC Connect or CDC Copeland or LCS Genie. Those got dropped. Along with some of the feed those are malt. Some of the feeds that we dropped were Champion, LCS Vesta and Muir. But then we added some new ones. KWS, KWS started testing with us last year, and they really had some really good material right out of the gate. So, the new ones that they tested with us were KWS Amadora, Chrissie, Fantex, Jessie. Oh, and then also Limagrain also had one, LCS Diablo. But if you look at the KWS varieties, Chrissie really stood out. It was statistically in a top yielding group in all three precipitation zones that we tested our barley. And then if you looked at KWS Jessie and LCS Diablo, which is Limagrain, they also were in the top yielding group in at least two out of the three regions. So, some of the new barley stuff that we’re testing is really, shows a lot of promise, I think.

Drew Lyon: Okay. I’m not familiar with KWS. Where are they out of?

Dr. Clark Neely: It’s a company out of the UK.

Drew Lyon: Oh, really? Okay.

Dr. Clark Neely: Yeah, so, you know, Europe, they know how to grow barley over there.

Drew Lyon: Okay, and they have material that fits our climate. That’s interesting.

Dr. Clark Neely: Apparently. At least it looks like.

Drew Lyon: At least in 2020.

Dr. Clark Neely: Yeah, yeah. We’ll see on one of our drier years how, how they do.

Drew Lyon: So, how are the spring trials looking for this year?

Dr. Clark Neely: So, we are, as we speak, I’m finalizing our list for the 2020 spring trials. I’m hoping we can start randomizing and sticking labels either today or tomorrow. But, yeah, so, probably the one thing that sticks out in my mind right now is the trial size, folks will notice, they’re going to be a lot smaller on the hard red spring trial. Last year, I think we were at 30 entries, and this year we’re going to be down to 18 entries. There’s a combination of things, why it shrunk. One of the main things was my advisory committee and I had kind of decided that there wasn’t, because there hasn’t been much of a market for hard white wheat in recent memory, we decided to drop hard white entries from the hard red trial. So, that probably took care of four or six entries that we normally test. And then there was just a combination, I think like the Western Wheat Quality Lab usually tests one or two with us, and they just didn’t have enough seed on hand this year. So, but, at any rate, as far as trial size goes for I think it’s the same number of entries for the soft white spring, the spring barley, we did shrink that down a little bit. That was 24 entries last year, and we’ll be down to 18. But whenever we do get it randomized and stuff gets planted, we’ll be sure to get our field maps up on the website. If people want to go out and look at the winter trials that are already in the ground, we have those field maps already posted. People can go out and look. And I’ve also started going around to help people navigate when they get to the trial. Even though you have a field map, I’ve started sticking like orange stakes in the first plot of every trial, just to help them navigate, say, okay, for sure, this is where I’m supposed to be. So, hopefully, that will help.

Drew Lyon: Okay. Any big changes in store in the near future for the program? This is, what, your second full year that you’re in this position?

Dr. Clark Neely: Yeah, it will be two years in August, so not quite two years yet, but, well, I guess, yeah, I kind of answered that I think on my previous response. You know, dropping the hard white entries is probably one of the biggest, biggest changes.

Drew Lyon: Same number of sites as you had last year or?

Dr. Clark Neely: Yeah. As of right now, we’re not changing up the number of sites that we have.

Drew Lyon: Okay. So, you mentioned having maps up on the website. What is the website? Where can people go to get more information about the Variety Testing Program and your field sites?

Dr. Clark Neely: It is

Drew Lyon: Okay. And what’s all up there for our listeners?

Dr. Clark Neely: Basically all of our historical yield data, as far back as I guess they have it. So, you can go any yield data is on there. You have, we have it separated by location and year. We also, at the end of every year, we come up with, we produce a single comprehensive document, and that’s posted on there as well for each year. And then like I mentioned, you can find the field maps on there. There’s links to any, any other extension faculty, if it’s a disease or weeds, people can navigate from there to find other information. I’m trying to think of some new things. On our report, we’ve tried to add some information on there. There were some folks that were, we were getting some feedback that they wanted to see more information on disease ratings. And sometimes that’s hard to find. We do have that incorporated into our variety selection tool, which you can also navigate from the small grains website. So, the variety, the final report that we produce, we’ve started adding some, I call them characteristic tables. We did something similar when I was at Texas A&M. But it’s a comprehensive table with basically all the ratings that we have. It doesn’t have any yield information, but any, any disease rating, insect tolerance ratings, we also have included the end-use quality rating, the falling numbers rating, and the falling numbers rating is new. I think last year was the first year we started publicizing that. And that’s thanks to Camille Steber, her lab. She does all that work. And then in combination with Kim Garland-Campbell, I think she helped with the analysis on that too. So, they’re producing those ratings, and then we’re incorporating that into the selection tool, and then also our, our final variety testing document at the end of each year.

Drew Lyon: Okay. So, just a lot of good information up there on the website.

Dr. Clark Neely: Yeah.

Drew Lyon: All right. Well, thanks for updating us on the 2020, and now the 2021 spring variety trials. We’ll be looking forward to the new data showing up later this summer. Thanks, Clark.

Dr. Clark Neely: Mhmm. Thanks, Drew.

[ Music ]

Drew Lyon: Thanks for joining us and listening to the WSU Wheat Beat podcast. If you like what you hear don’t forget to subscribe and leave a review on iTunes or your favorite podcasting app. If you have questions or topics, you’d like to hear on future episodes please email me at drew.lyon — that’s –( You can find us online at and on Facebook and Twitter @WSUSmallGrains. The WSU Wheat Beat podcast is a production of CAHNRS Communications and the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University. I’m Drew Lyon, we’ll see you next time.

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