Diversifying an Organic Grain System:  Spring Wheat - Edible Bean Variety Trials...

Final Report for FNE97-185

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 1997: $6,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1998
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
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Project Information


Note to readers, attached is the complete final report for FNE97-185

When wheat is grown in Vermont, it is generally soft white winter wheat which, with its low protein content, is suitable for pastries, biscuits, and noodles, but not for bread. Since they are not generally grown in Vermont, little information exists on performance and yield of bread wheats in this area. The principal objective of this project was to address this deficit. This study compared the performance of seven varieties of spring wheats: Oxen, Brio, Russ, Diablo, Sharp, Katepawa, and Classic. Classic is a hard white; all the rest are hard reds. They were planted in four replications in a randomized complete block design. Another field was planted to just one of these varieties, to chart expenses and determine a production budget applicable to all of them.

A similar trial of six varieties of beans was also conducted, as a complementary crop to wheat in a rotation. The bean varieties tried were: Calypso, Soldier, Maine Yellow Eye, Jacob's Cattle, Vermont Cranberry, and Black Turtle Soup. All the crops, both wheat and beans, were grown under organic management. Measurements were made of grain and straw yield, and milling and baking qualities. Disease and pest incidence were also observed.

Results from the wheat trial

Classic suffered badly from smut, leaf rust, and aphids, Diablo from leaf rust, and Oxen from a stem boring maggot. Katepawa's seedheads had a peculiar twisted appearance, from which they recovered after a time. The biggest pest problem, which affected all the wheat varieties, was birds.

Oxen and Brio had the highest grain yields, at about 38 bushels/acre (for comparison, Cornell reports typical winter wheat yields in New York of about 50 bu/acre). Katepawa yielded the most straw, at 1.6 tons/acre. Figuring in costs of $99.70/acre, the most profitable of the varieties tried, based on either grain alone or the combined value of grain and straw, was Oxen, with Brio a close second.

Regarding milling quality, Oxen and Katepawa were given excellent ratings for yield (i.e. percent of grain convertible to flour), at 73% and 71% respectively. Oxen, Sharp, Katepawa, and Classic obtained high ratings for sedimentation. Oxen and Sharp had the highest test weights, at 61 lbs/bu. All varieties had protein contents above 14%, which is very high; Katepawa had the highest, at 15.2%.

Protein content after baking was highest for Katepawa, but all varieties rated well. Oxen had the lowest ash content at 0.5%, which is still higher than one would like. Flour color of all varieties was dull to slightly creamy. Greatest volume increases on baking were registered for Classic, Katepawa, Diablo, and Oxen; best grain texture noted for Brio, Russ, and Sharp.

The authors concluded that overall the Oxen variety was the most promising spring wheat for the vicinity of Addison County, Vermont, and that Katepawa and Brio also showed promise. They caution, however, that spring wheat can suffer considerable loss where the ground remains wet too long. They advise farmers planting spring wheat in heavy soils, such as the clays that predominate in much of Addison County, to seek out the better-drained locations.

Results from the bean trial

The grain drill used to plant this trial unfortunately distributed the seeds very erratically. The trial also suffered heavy weed pressure and a bad infestation of potato leafhoppers. Despite these problems, however, yields for all varieties other than Black Turtle Soup were remarkably similar, ranging from 10.2 to 11.3 bushels/acre. Black Turtle Soup yielded 17.4 bu/acre where density was on the order of 73,000 plants/acre, and 40.7 where it was 162,000 plants/acre, making it far and away the most productive. At $1.30/bu, however, and figuring in production costs of $149.40/acre, none of the bean varieties was profitable. To those who may be interested in growing beans anyway, the authors suggest planting with a corn planter. They also advise Maine Yellow Eye and Soldier as more suitable for machine harvesting, as the pods of these varieties are higher up off the ground.


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  • Jeff Carter


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.