Small Grains Breeding in the Texas High Plains and Rolling Plains
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Over the past several decades, Texas producers have planted over 6 million acres of small grains, and the industry contributes nearly $2 billion to the state's annual economy. Grain yield of wheat in Texas has increased from an average of 20 bushels per acre during the 1960's to 30 bushels per acre since 2000 (Texas Agricultural Statistics Service). As a result, less land, money, and natural resources are needed to produce a bushel of wheat. Modern cultivars generally have a higher yield potential, are more efficient at utilizing available natural resources, and respond better to inputs. They generally have greater resistance to pathogens and insects, thus reducing the need for chemical applications. Investments in plant breeding have consistently produced a high rate of return. Most estimates range between 30% and 60% annual return on plant breeding investments. Plant breeding is a continuous process and a sustained investment is necessary to maintain genetic gain and to realize a return on previous investments.Planted acres of small grains in Texas have been going down the last few years and only 4.5 million acres were planted in 2018. Yields have increased over time, but there is still a large gap between yield potential and realized yield. In addition to incessant stresses such as drought and high temperatures, new pest problems continually emerge to restrict yield. New cultivars must be designed to increase profitability. Continued improvement in forage yields and quality will benefit both stocker cattle operators and wheat producers. Wheat cultivars should have specific end-use functionality properties for specific products. For example, the dough properties needed for tortilla manufacturing are different from those needed for bread-making.The goal of the TAM (Texas A&M) wheat breeding program is to design small grain cultivars for specific adaptation areas and management programs in Texas. Hard winter wheat will be the primary commodity, but some work will be done with triticale.