When we talk about variety selection for dual-purpose wheat production, one of the things we need to consider in addition to grain yield is forage yield. Varieties have different forage yield potential, which is highly related to their tillering ability. That’s one of the considerations, although it might not be the most important consideration in a dual-purpose situation. The reason is that many of the varieties have at least fair forage yield potential. The amount of forage produced is more dependent on weather conditions than variety. In a warm fall with plenty of moisture, most varieties will be good forage producers. But there are varietal differences.
Producers have the option to compare the different varieties with a new K-State publication titled “Wheat Variety Date of First Hollow Stem, Fall Forage Yield, and Grain Yield 2016.” Another factor producers should consider when they’re selecting a variety for dual-purpose production is the date of first hollow stem. First hollow stem is when the growing point is about a half-inch above the crown – when the growing point is going up through the shoot in the spring. That’s the optimal time to remove cattle from wheat pasture. If we’re grazing past first hollow stem, we’re looking at about 1 to 5 percent grain yield loss per day. So if we’re a couple weeks past first hollow stem, we could be looking at as much as 50 percent yield loss or more.
If we have a variety with relatively late first hollow stem, it may not be the best forage yielding variety but it may give you a few more weeks to graze during the spring. If producers are going for grain after grazing, they also need to look at the grain yield recovery potential after grazing of the varieties. By grazing, we’re imposing a stress on the wheat crop by removing leaf area and tillers. Different varieties will respond differently to that stress. Varieties that do not have good spring tillering potential may not do very well in those situations. You might want to look at varieties that have good spring tillering potential to recover from that stress due to grazing. It’s very challenging, but having dual-purpose wheat gives producers the flexibility to just graze out if prices are conducive for that, or go for grain after the grazing.