By Katharine N. Lotspeich
USDA announced September 30, 2016 that Colorado winter wheat production broke a record in 2016, with an average yield of 48 bushels per acre. This is the highest ever yield per acre for Colorado and raises the total production in 2016 to 105.12 million bushels. The 10-year average for winter wheat production is 78.2 million bushels, or 35.8 bushels per acre.
This is the largest winter wheat crop harvested in Colorado since 2010, when 105.75 million bushels were harvested. After a record crop in 1985 which produced 134.5 million bushels were harvested, a large percentage of land was taken out of production and put into the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). In 1985, there were 3.7 million acres planted and 3.45 million acres harvested. This year, 2.35 million acres were planted and 2.19 million acres were harvested.
Kim Warner, executive director of the Colorado Wheat Administrative Committee (CWAC), said good growing conditions, improved farming practices and advanced wheat varieties contributed to this tremendous yield. "The record breaking yield per acre indicates our farmers doing more with their acreage to maximize yield," she said, "despite the second consecutive year of heavy stripe rust and other pest and disease pressure."
In addition to timely rains and good conditions through the growing season, Mark Linnebur, a wheat farmer from Byers and president of CWAC, credits the Colorado State University (CSU) wheat breeding program for developing varieties tailored to growing conditions to the high plains, specifically Colorado.
"With over 70% of the Colorado wheat acres planted to CSU/Colorado Wheat Research Foundation (CWRF) varieties, it definitely shows the excellent yield potential and quality that we are receiving from the wheat breeding and wheat-related research programs at CSU. This relationship has produced the best varieties for our growing conditions and the breeding pipeline is full of the next generation of wheat varieties that will only continue to enhance our bottom line as producers," Linnebur said.
CWAC is providing over $800,000 in research funding annually to CSU for development of new wheat varieties and wheat-related research. CWAC is the commissioner appointed Board of Control for the Colorado Wheat Marketing Order whose purpose is to decide how assessment funds are to be spent for research, promotion and education activities