Farmer-Led Development and Commercial Release of Improved Hard Red Spring Wheat Variety

Final Report for FNC05-591

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2005: $17,995.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Region: North Central
State: North Dakota
Project Coordinator:
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Project Information


Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society (NPSAS) is a grassroots nonprofit membership organization that is committed to the development of a more sustainable society through the promotion of ecologically sound, socially just, and economically viable food systems. The organization has been active in organic and sustainable agriculture for the past 30 years. Nine years ago a group called the Farm Breeding Club (FBC) was formed from within the organization. The mission and the goals of the FBC are as follows:

• Designed to bring farmers together to share knowledge and seed stock for seed saving and breeding.
• Goals:
– To enable farmers to develop, maintain, and trade seed varieties suited to low input agriculture in the Northern Plains
– Network with other organizations working to conserve biodiversity
– Link food quality and taste along with varietal diversity for food by bringing together farmers, buyers, processors, and eaters to complete the food web

The following three farmer members of the FBC participated in the grant’s overall objective of developing and releasing a hard red spring wheat variety:

* Blaine Schmaltz Farm: A diversified and certified organic large farm (over 4000 acres) that raises crops for seed, feed, food, and forage. Beef feeder cattle and a cow/calf operation are a large part of the operation. Blaine’s beef is certified organic and marketed as grass fed. The farm grows seed that is inspected by the ND State Seed Inspection Service along with growing foundation and breeder stock seed. The main focus in seed production is wheat, durum, barley, rye, emmer, peas, drybeans, flax, and alfalfa seed.

* Anne Ongstad Whitman Ranch: A diversified large farm (over 3000 acres) that raises certified organic wheat, flax, sunflowers, and alfalfa. Anne has a cow/calf operation and markets her beef into the natural beef market.

* Lewis Seibold Farm: A small (less then 600 acres) certified organic crop and livestock farm. Lewis produces wheat, flax, corn, and forages. Beef cattle and sheep are part of his livestock operation and are sold in the natural market.

Farmer members of the NPSAS Farm Breeding Club (FBC) increased seed on a field scale of a disease tolerant, high yielding hard red spring wheat cultivar. These farmers then released and named the seed lot as a commercial variety in 2007. The experimental line known as KW175 was named FBC-Dylan. The project was also involved in the distribution of seed to additional farmers across different growing regions. The project worked with North Dakota State University Carrington Research Extension Center’s agronomist and FBC member Steve Zwinger to conduct on-farm organic variety trials that compared available commercial varieties to FBC Dylan. An important goal of the project was to compare agronomic performance and report the findings to aid organic farmers in variety making decisions.

Our work activities with this seed development project had a number of objectives that dealt with seed increase, distribution, and evaluation.
1. Increase seed at field scale on 2 farms in 2006 and 13 farms in 2007.
2. Select for further varietal improvement on 1 farm in 2006 and 2007
3. Compare FBC Dylan to 16-20 currently planted varieties of hard red spring wheat on 3 organic farms in 2006 & 2007.
4. Determine market acceptance of the variety in 2007.
5. Outreach in the areas field tours and variety performance information.

Seed increase:

Blaine: 45 acres were sown to Dylan at Rugby, ND. 1190 net bushels were harvested and cleaned to be distributed to farmers for the 2007 growing season.

Anne: 23 acres were sown to Dylan at Robinson, ND. 440 net bushels were harvested and cleaned to be distributed to farmers for the 2007 growing season.

Louis: 0.1 acre was sown to Dylan to make further selections for scab tolerance from this variety. Due to the extreme drought that his farm experienced, it made it difficult to select improved plants to scab, as this disease thrives in wet environments.

Blaine: 125 acres were sown to Dylan at Rugby, ND. Approximately 2500 bushels of clean seed were produced. 1500 bushels were sold to Natural Ways Mills, an organic grain buyer and miller. Dylan is being evaluated as a possible replacement variety for flour contract with a cracker manufacturer. 1000 bushels are available for sale for 2008 from Blaine. Blaine had a hail storm on portions of his farm losing part of his production this year.

Anne: 62 acres were sown to Dylan wheat at Robinson, ND. 990 bushels of clean seed were produced for seed and available for 2008. Some of the production had mistakenly been mixed with other wheat seed lots making it unusable for seed.

Louis: 35 acres were sown to Dylan wheat at Cathay, ND. Approximately 400 unclean bushels were produced for seed. Again due to the lack of scab this year, it was difficult to select improved plants to scab.

Additional new growers: 12 additional farmers planted Dylan wheat this year. An additional 390 acres were planted by these farmers. Total bushels produced are unknown at the time of this writing, although is estimated around 10,000 bushels. Some of this production was sold in the open market as milling wheat. The new growers in 2007 and their location are listed below. All of the farmers are certified organic or farm organically.

Duane Boehm Richardton, ND
Wayne Mittleider Tappen, ND
Rick Mittleider Tappen, ND
Jim Gerritsen Bridgewater, MA
Mark Fulford MA
Matt Williams Linneus, MA
Dennis Neustel Robinson, ND
Marvin Pleinis Mclauglin, SD
Fred Kirshenmann Medina, ND
Tom Keidel Dawson, ND
Richard Krein Wishek, ND
Dennis Kropp Driscoll, ND

On-farm organic small plot variety trials:

FBC Dylan was planted in replicated trials and compared to 16 other commercially planted varieties of wheat. These trials were planted on all three certified organic farms. Data gathered from these trials include plant height, plant lodging, KWT, test weight, seed protein, and seed yield.

FBC Dylan was planted in replicated trials and compared to 20 other commercial varieties of wheat. Trials were again planted on all three of the cooperating farms in addition to a four organic site planted at the Carrington Research Extension Center. Data gathered from these trials include plant height, plant lodging, KWT, test weight, seed protein, and seed yield.

Field tours were held at each of the three farms throughout the summer to better gain membership exposure to FBC Dylan. Louis’s farm hosted a plot tour in conjunction with NPSAS’s annual summer symposium. The number in attendance was slightly over 50 people. Plot tours were held at Blaine’s and Anne’s farm also. The number of people attending these tours were less at both locations (approximately 10-12 each), although the low numbers led to exchange of good agronomic information by participants. Outreach was also accomplished through data dissemination by means of annual reports, web sites, Extension publications and oral communication. Another means of outreach for this project were talks given at general sessions during NPSAS annual winter conference. This conference brings together over 400 people each year and exposed over 100 members that attended the talk. A breakout session at the conference also presented variety data gathered from these trials to aid farmers in variety making decisions. Approximately 50 people attended the breakout session that dealt with organic wheat variety testing.

Field tours were held at each of the three farms late June to early July. Approximately 25 people attended the on-farm variety tours to observe the wheat varieties growing side by side. Tour participants also had the chance to view the production fields of Dylan at each of the farms. Outreach was also accomplished through data dissemination by means of annual reports, web sites, Extension publications and oral communication. The NPSAS annual winter conference again had a general session that provided information to the membership on the progress of this project and others that the FBC is working on. This session was well attended with over 250 participants taking in the session. This was the first time that a FBC update had attendance similar to that of key note speakers at the conference.

1. In 2006 we increased 1630 clean bushels of breeder seed on two of the farms involved in this project. Blaine increased 1190 bushels on 45 acres for a field scale yield of 26.5 net bushels per acre. Anne grew 440 bushels on 23 acres for a 19.1 net bushels per acre yield. In 2007 the number of farmers growing Dylan increased to 15 that planted the variety 600 acres.
2. We cooperated with the NDSU Carrington Research Extension Center during the 2006 and 2007 growing seasons to conduct variety trials on all three of the organic producer’s farms. Dylan was compared to 16-20 currently planted commercial varieties. Data from trials were then published in Research Center’s Annual Report, Web page, and in statewide Extension publications.
3. We conducted on-farm plot tours on all three organic farms exposing NPSAS members and other farmers to Dylan in the field. The FBC also visited all field and research sites to further their knowledge about Dylan planted on each of their farms in 2006.
4. FBC Dylan was entered at numerous (conventional environments) University variety trials sites across the states of North Dakota and Minnesota in 2006 & 2007 and South Dakota in 2006.
5. We named and released KW 175 as a variety of hard red spring wheat in the fall of 2006. FBC Dylan was chosen as the name by the Farmer Breeder Club. The variety will be registered in the public domain with the hopes that other wheat breeders will find it useful in their programs. We are in the process of registering the variety with the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA) and hope to have the process completed by the end of the year.
6. We decided that a 10% royalty, hereafter called a “development fee” be collected on seed sales by the FBC. Money collected from this development fee will be used to fund future seed development projects by the FBC. The club worked on procedures and policy for selling and growing seed to be planted in 2007 and 2008. Seed in 2007 sold for $11 a bushel with $1 going to the FBC for development fee. Seed for 2008 (due to rising wheat prices) will be sold for a minimum of $25 a bushel with $2.50 being collected by the FBC for a total of $27.50 a bushel. Development fee payments are based on an honor system. A 10% or $1 per bushel minimum development fee applies to all seed sold in 2008 and thereafter. Growers can save their own seed without restriction. It was also decided to return 5% profit above reserve to NPSAS for educational funds.
7. The club met four times over the course of this grant to work on policy, procedures, and seed distribution decisions. Teleconference meetings were used twice over the course of this project to make timely decisions with distribution of seed. During the course of this project the club also elected a treasurer and secretary since it seemed imperative to have these positions as we start to deal with funds that will be collected from this release.
8. The club recently drafted a letter [Editor's Note: see the letter at the end of the report.] to farmers that grew and are growing Dylan encouraging them not only use organic seed, but to save seed whenever possible on their farm. We also encourage farmers to save seed of Dylan and sell it providing they use proper seed protocol to maintain variety purity and ensure high quality seed. Again the 10% development is asked to be honored.
9. In 2007 two fields on Blaine and Anne’s farm were field inspected by the ND State Seed Department as a breeder lot and a certified lot of seed. Both of these fields passed the inspection and met the requirements for these classes of seed. Although this variety is not registered with AOSCA yet, the State Seed Department is willing to work with us in registering and supporting the development of this variety in ND.
10. In order to determine the market acceptance of this variety, we decided to sell part of the production in the market. We sold over 2000 bushels to buyers. One of the buyers, Natural Ways Mill from MN, tested the wheat as a replacement variety for an existing cracker flour contract. Results to date look favorable for Dylan to replace CDC Teal for this company.
11. To further gain information on the baking quality or acceptance by the artesian baker, we sold seed to Wood Prairie Farm in northern MA to test as a replacement variety for CDC Teal. Wood Prairie has a mail-order catalog that sells wheat flour on a national scale. According to Jim, the owner, Dylan works well for making whole wheat bread, and its agronomics fit his farm. Jim plans on marketing it in his catalog in the near future, as he feels his customers will get the quality they demand.
12. Over the course of this project numerous requests for seed have been made and filled. Some of these requests are for use in research programs located across the nation. The type of research has varied from breeding programs to crop production studies.
13. The club currently owns 90 bushels of 2006 breeder seed, which is held in reserve. Plans are to purchase 377 and 85 bushels from Blaine and Anne’s 2007 production with the remaining funds from this grant. We will sell a portion of this seed and keep 110 bushels in reserve to maintain our goal of 200 bushels reserve seed at all times.

The main thing that we have learned is the experience of developing and increasing a small amount of an experimental variety of wheat and getting it to the level that farmers can plant it on a field scale. We have learned about releasing and naming a variety. We are also in the early stages of learning about seed distribution and future plans of maintaining pure seed of this variety. This will be an outgoing learning process, as this group of farmers continues to work in the area of variety development.

Another important thing that we learned is the farmer acceptance level of this variety. A comment from Blaine is the fact that this variety looked as good as any other commercial variety that he was currently planting on his farm in 2006. A visiting seed company representative on Blaine’s farm that summer he had made similar comments. For this variety to look and respond on a field scale similar to private and public breeding programs varieties we feel is quite an accomplishment. Anne has reported similar results from her farm during the 2006 season. FBC Dylan in the field yielded close to double that of a public variety, which was planted next to FBC Dylan.

We have also learned from the on-farm small testing that FBC Dylan performs equal to or better than the 16-20 varieties that were compared. Another important aspect learned from the trials is the yield level of varieties that are currently being planted by the organic farmers. Data gathered illustrate that one of the main wheat varieties, Coteau, planted by organic farmers in North Dakota, has a yield level that is 67% that of FBC Dylan in 2006.

University tests in 2006 from North Dakota illustrate that FBC Dylan did well in the dryer western sites when compared to other varieties tested. This is important since the variety was selected from a wet environment that was scab infested. Data gathered from University tests in Minnesota during the same year illustrate that its performance from this wetter, higher yielding environment is comparable to other varieties tested. These trials back our belief that this variety has adaptation across many environments.

General farmer comments on growing this variety in 2007:
Majority of the farmers that planted in 2007 liked the variety and will plant again in 2008. With the exception of two growers, all farmers reported a positive experience with Dylan wheat. The farmers who will plant again this year will plant most of their own seed back. Some will have a portion of their production to sell for seed. It seemed that most farmers had Dapps or Fryer on their farms to compare Dylan too. The results were mixed on the top performer among the farmers. It appeared to be equal amongst the varieties on their choice of top performer. Other general comments by the farmers were: threshes well, good color and quality, protein is low, and yield is OK. Overall, most farmers were pleased with planting this variety of wheat, with the majority planting it again. It is estimated that Dylan will be planted on approximately 2400 acres in 2009.

Links to trial data and press release associated with this project and variety:

2007 NDSU:CREC organic variety trial data

2006 NDSU:CREC organic variety trial data

NPSAS press release on FBC Dylan

2007 NDSU State HRSW Trials
2006 NDSU State HRSW Trial

2007 UMN State HRSW Trials
2006 UMN State HRSW Trials

The FBC would like to thank SARE for providing funds and the most importantly, the farmers for their time and talents on this project. Your vision and assistance allowed this idea to become a reality. I feel an important aspect for receiving funding is whether or not the project can keep going without additional funds. If this project is to be it is successful it will need to support itself by generating funds from within, time will tell.

Bitter Sweet Name
This project, although not complete, will continue to go on should the farmers find this variety suitable for their farms and farming system. This variety is named after someone who has gone before us and is intended to carry on his name, and his belief of caring and compassion for all creation. Dylan believed that life forms have a depth of “genetic breath” that could express or adapt itself when conditions allow. Dylan, for a young man, had a strong belief in organic agriculture as he would say, “it’s the right thing to do.” This variety and work is dedicated to a very memorable fellow... and my seed.

Dylan N. Zwinger
November 16, 1989-March 15, 2004

………I was the heirloom seed you planted,
and you always loved what you grew…………

From “Heirloom” by Diane Zwinger

To: Growers of FBC Dylan wheat seed:
March 25, 2008


This letter is being given to all farmers who purchase FBC Dylan seed from the FBC directly or members of the FBC.

The FBC is encouraging you the farmer to use organic seed and to save seed whenever possible on your farm. As we work to distribute a variety like Dylan, we also encourage you to save seed of this variety. As a method of networking growers in different areas we ask that you consider selling Dylan seed to your neighbors or other farmers if the performance of the variety is satisfactory in your area. We ask that proper seed protocol be followed when selling any seed to maintain variety purity and ensure quality seed.

The FBC will track seed that is available for seed sales from information given by the growers. It will be on an honor system with a 10 % development fee on seed sales collected by the FBC for future project development. We ask that you report all seed that will be available for sale or is sold to the FBC.

It is now through the distribution of seed that the ideas and work of the FBC are becoming a reality. Your support in growing and distributing FBC developed seed will aid in the development of “seeds for the future of organic agriculture.”

Thank you for your interest in Dylan wheat and the work of the FBC, your support helps the overall development of this concept.

We hope you have a great growing season!

Thank you,

“Seeds………… are our past, present, and future. May we always posses
the wisdom and knowledge to use them appropriately.”


  • Anne Ongstad Whitman
  • Lewis Seibold


Participation Summary
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.