Blends of multiple wheat varieties have some advantages in many situations. I prefer a 3-way blend. Blends can offer producers some yield stability in most cases. While any one variety may do much better or worse than other varieties in the same vicinity, having a blend of two or three varieties can usually even out those ups and downs. This reduces the chances of having a landlord upset because the variety planted on his or her land yielded considerably less than other fields in the area.
Blends have been used more widely in north central Kansas than any other region in the state over the past five years, according to the Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service annual survey of Wheat Varieties. The acreage planted to blends tends to be affected by the availability of blends from local certified seed producers and the timing of new variety releases and their performance when planted alone in a particular district.
To be effective in stabilizing yield potential, consideration should be given to which wheat varieties to use in making a blend. Here are some basic principles:
- Use varieties with different types of disease resistance. Although the cost effectiveness of fungicides now may reduce the importance of this factor, there is still value to having at least one natural source of resistance to diseases.
- Use varieties with slightly different maturities. If producers can spread out the maturity a bit, there is a better chance that at least one of the varieties can benefit from a given weather pattern. For example, later-maturing variety might be able to take better advantage of a late rain than an early-maturing variety. Spreading maturities may require some compromises, however. If the earlier-maturing variety in the blend has a tendency to shatter, the producer should be willing to harvest the field as soon as the early variety component in the blend is ready – which means the producer will have to be willing to take a moisture discount at times. If the earlier variety component in the blend has good shattering tolerance, then the producer can wait until the later variety component is fully dried down before harvesting.
- Use varieties with different levels of winterhardiness and spring greenup tendencies. If there are high-yielding varieties available, but which have poor winterhardiness or a tendency to break dormancy early in the spring, blend them with varieties that have better winterhardiness or a stronger spring dormancy.
- Use varieties that yield well. Do not include a low-yielding variety just for the sake of genetic diversity.
- Do not be afraid to use the very newest varieties. Generally, I like to see new varieties on their own at first to find their strengths and weaknesses. But there’s no reason that the newest releases cannot be used in a blend, either.
It should be mentioned that blends do have some disadvantages. Blends are unlikely to result in the highest yields possible in any given year. And blends do not provide the same level of management flexibility as a pure variety.