Spelt and other heritage grains are in increasing demand among consumers and millers as a specialty product. However, there is little information concerning best management practices available to farmers growing or interested in growing these crops in Pennsylvania. Further, there is no current information concerning the performance and relative disease resistance of available grain varieties in Pennsylvania. Farmers are seeking answers to their production questions, especially in regard to disease and stored pest issues.
An educational program will be designed to increase farmer knowledge in the areas of heritage wheat production and pest management. Farmers will share knowledge with one another and take advantage of entomology and plant pathology expertise to become familiar with pest identification and management. The educational opportunities resulting from the project will include field days, workshops, and Extension publications. These resources will be targeted toward Pennsylvania growers, but will also be made available to farmers, educators and crop consultants in the greater mid-Atlantic region.
In order to identify potential disease resistance in varieties that are well-suited to Pennsylvania, a research component of variety trials focused on spelt will be located at two on-farm sites and one research & extension center (PSU Southeast Ag Research & Extension Center (SEAREC), Lancaster County, PA) for three years. Researchers and farmers will evaluate five varieties of spelt, chosen in consultation with local millers and farmers. Varieties will be evaluated for yield and disease, and analyzed for milling quality. Results will be shared through academic research articles, non-refereed publications and extension presentations.
Differences in foliar disease susceptibility and milling quality exist among currently available spelt varieties in Pennsylvania.
In order to evaluate the success of winter spelt varieties under Pennsylvania conditions, field plots were established at three locations in the fall of 2017.
At the Penn State Southeast Agricultural Research & Extension Center (SEAREC) in Manheim, PA, four spelt varieties (Comet, Maverick, Sonic, and Sungold, French’s Hybrids Inc., Wakeman, OH) were planted on October 18, along with one winter wheat variety (MAS #4, Mid-Atlantic Seeds, York, PA) on October 19. In a no-till field, following soybeans, plots were seeded at a rate of 130 pounds per acre, 1 1/4″ deep using a JD 1590 no-till drill. Plots were 10′ by 75′ and arranged in a randomized complete block design with six replications. Plots at this location will be managed using conventional best management practices.
At both cooperating farm locations, Marshall Farms and Small Valley Milling, three spelt varieties (Comet, Maverick, and Sungold, French’s Hybrids Inc., Wakeman, OH) were planted on November 3 and December 1, respectively. Following corn, both fields were plowed and disked prior to seeding. Plots were 30’ by at least 100’ and arranged in a randomized complete block design with four replications. Plots at cooperating farmers’ locations will be managed organically.
Research plots at the two on-farm locations were managed using organic methods while the plots located at SEAREC were topdressed with 60lbs of nitrogen per acre applied as 32% urea ammonium nitrate on April 7, 2018. Weeds were managed with an application of Harmony GT applied on the same date at 0.5 oz per acre at SEAREC. Stand counts were conducted at all sites when plants reached Feekes 6 growth stage.
While powdery mildew was not observed in 2018 at SEAREC, moderate disease pressure was experienced and subsequently rated at the two on-farm sites. All sites reported additional foliar diseases such as tan spot and leaf blotch complex and were evaluated at early dough stage. Weather conditions were highly conducive to the development of Fusarium head blight at all sites during the entire period of anthesis in 2018, and while not an initial target of this research, the decision was made to also capture FHB incidence and severity data at all three sites. This disease is of critical importance because of the associated production of mycotoxins.
Research plots at all sites were harvested using a Wintersteiger Elite plot combine by taking the center meter of each plot. Harvested length ranged from 40′ to 60′. The harvested material was weighed to determine yield and a subsample was taken from each for de-hulling and submission for further testing to evaluate milling qualities. Samples were cleaned, ground, and shipped to the Wheat Quality Lab at Kansas State University for quality analyses on instrumentation including Brabender Quadumat Senior and Farinograph as well as protein content, ash content, and falling number.
Spelt plantings for 2019 were again established in fall of 2018 at SEAREC and Marshall Farms, using the equipment and parameters stated above for the previous year. While cooperators at Small Valley Milling remain active participants in the project, they declined installation of study plots due to equipment and time constraints. The PIs appreciate their ongoing contributions to the project, including processing grain samples and serving as advisors. Varieties Comet, Maverick, and Sungold were planted at both sites while a fourth variety, Sonic, was included at SEAREC.
Management and evaluations of the plots were repeated as described above in 2019. Powdery mildew was present at Marshall Farms, along with other leaf blotch diseases, and rated accordingly. Powdery mildew was not observed at SEAREC, but septoria leaf blotch, leaf rust, and mild Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus was rated at this location. Fusarium head blight did not appear at Marshall Farms, but was present at low to moderate severity at SEAREC.
Harvest, yield measurements, and sample analysis took place as described above and samples await further processing for milling qualities.
Spelt and wheat emerged uniformly in all plots at the SEAREC location within two weeks of planting.
Data collected through the evaluations above have been received for 2018 samples and are in process for 2019 samples. The analysis and results of milling quality assessment are forthcoming. Initial results suggest some important differences among varieties in terms of potential yield, disease tolerance and other agronomic qualities or features such as lodging and straw production. The persistently wet field conditions during flowering and grain fill created high disease pressure for most of the common wheat (and therefore, spelt) diseases in the region, and allowed for a good evaluation of potential resistance or tolerance among varieties. All varieties showed some level of infection by Fusarium head blight.
Some preliminary results for milling quality are shown below. FN indicates Falling Number (a higher number is desireable), while AC refers to Ash Content (a neutral measure of mineral content).
|Row Labels||Average of FN (SEC)||StdDev of FN (SEC)||Average of AC (%)||StdDev of AC (%)|
|SMALL VALLEY MILLING||370.5||47.5||2.31||0.12|
|SMALL VALLEY MILLING||353.3||29.8||2.10||0.09|
|SMALL VALLEY MILLING||365.5||10.8||2.06||0.10|
In working side by side with cooperating farmers, the research team has adjusted the educational approach to meet grower needs in terms of event timing. In response to their feedback on appropriate times to host events, PIs have created a series of three small grain production workshops which will take place in three geographic locations across Pennsylvania in March 2020.
In addition, we have created presentations for Extension Educators to use across the Commonwealth during grower meetings for the 2020 season covering the production of high quality grains using variety selection and disease management.
Also planned is a targeted workshop/field day focused on small grains production, including diversity in crops, as well as featured presentations during our Farming for Success Field Day, and digital articles on these variety trials and small grain production.
In 2017 and 2018 two Pennsylvania farmers and a miller will participate in on-farm spelt variety trials to evaluate yield, quality, and disease resistance with support from researchers. Prior to the fall planting season, researchers will meet with on-farm cooperators to discuss plot layout and select a potential field. We will assist the on-farm cooperators with marking and staking the trial during and after planting. A template will be provided to track inputs, expenses, changes, and other notes throughout the project. In the winter, an advisory board meeting will be conducted to prepare for spring data collection and generate a plan for harvesting in July. We will meet again in December to discuss the past field season and plan for the next season. This cycle will repeat throughout each year of the project.
Seventy-five Pennsylvania farmers will learn disease diagnosis and proper stored pest management. This workshop will occur in spring, 2020 at SEAREC and will be regionally focused on Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware.
Fifty Pennsylvania farmers will increase their knowledge about spelt production and disease management approaches during guided field days. In spring 2020, a field day will be hosted in Lancaster County, in South
Central Pennsylvania. In spring 2020, a field day will also be hosted in Potter County, in Northern Pennsylvania, reaching audiences into Southern New York state.