When joint wheat breeding program Varsity Idaho was created in 2014, it was a divide-and-conquer affair. The University of Idaho (UI) bred and released varieties, and Limagrain Cereal Seeds (LCS) marketed them. Now, Varsity Idaho has blossomed into a true collaboration, with both partners co-breeding, co-selecting and co-releasing new VI varieties.
The power of partnership
Local growers reap the benefits of Varsity Idaho advanced wheat genetics both now and in the years ahead. Today, farmers have a suite of proven wheat varieties that have been bred to thrive on Idaho, Washington and Oregon fields. These varieties generate royalties that are reinvested in the wheat research program at the UI College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, ensuring continued research advances for years to come.
“The Varsity Idaho lines advance our highly successful wheat varieties and expand the opportunities for wheat growers across the Pacific Northwest, showing the strength of our breeding program and the benefit of our partnership with Limagrain Cereal Seeds,” explains Mark McGuire, UI associate dean of research. “We invest the royalties strategically into further wheat research and variety development focused on growers’ needs.”
This fruitful partnership has led to exceptional varieties and a robust pipeline of wheat genetics, including three exciting new releases for this season: VI Voodoo CL+, VI Presto CL+ and VI Shock.
“It’s a really exciting time – we’re beginning to see dividends from the next phase of a long-term collaborative project,” enthuses Zach Gaines, LCS national sales and marketing manager. “The evolution of the Varsity Idaho brand and pipeline of genetics is following in the footsteps of a huge win for our partnership with UI Magic CL+. These new varieties are important steps forward, and they are right on time.”
Continuing a Magic streak
UI Magic CL+ is the most widely grown Clearfield variety in the Tri-State area, and for good reason – it’s a proven, in-demand performer. Varsity Idaho’s new CL+ varieties build on the successful Magic genetics and represent the next wave of two-gene Clearfield lines for the Pacific Northwest.
“The two new Clearfields were bred to provide farmers with more tailored agronomics based on production region,” says Hannah Kammeyer, LCS PNW regional commercial manager. “We expect VI Voodoo CL+ and VI Presto CL+ to work together to advance the wheat performance sorcery UI Magic CL+ started.”
VI Voodoo CL+
“Voodoo has the potential to be a better fit and possibly even expand outside of the growing environment where Magic has been so successful,” asserts Mike Klicker, seed division manager for Northwest Grain Growers in Walla Walla, Wash., who serves customers across the Pacific Northwest. “The plant type is very similar, but the improvements in stripe rust tolerance and top-end yield potential with VI Voodoo CL+ appear to be significant.”
This season will primarily be a registered seed year for VI Voodoo CL+, with limited quantities available preparing for a larger certified launch in 2022.
VI Voodoo CL+ characteristics:
• Similar plant type to UI Magic CL+
• Short stature with strong straw
• Improved yield over UI Magic CL+
• Improved stripe rust over UI Magic CL+
• Desirable end-use quality
VI Presto CL+
VI Presto CL+ hasn’t been on fields long, but Geoff Schulz, manager of seed operations for Highline Grain Growers in Reardan, Wash., likes what he sees so far.
“Presto’s plot performance along Highway 2 is very encouraging, and it fills a significant hole among Clearfield varieties. The Norwest Duet background gives growers a variety they can be confident in, with an improvement in yield, straw strength, disease package and falling numbers over Curiosity CL+ and Mela CL+. VI Presto CL+ is also more suited to dryland and harsh winter conditions than Resilience CL+, Stingray CL+, UI Magic CL+ and UI Castle CL+,” says Schulz, adding that limited certified seed stocks will be available this year, with significant stocks available in 2022.
VI Presto CL+ characteristics:
• Taller plant type
• Ideal for intermediate and low rainfall acres
• Exceptional yield performance in the WSU low rainfall trials
• Consistently heavy test weight
• Improved winter-hardiness and tolerance to stripe rust and C-stripe
Charging up southern Idaho yield
Until now, Varsity Idaho varieties have primarily served the needs of growers in northern areas of the PNW. VI Shock is an exciting new release that expands the pipeline and VI’s portfolio, having topped southern Idaho wheat yield trials for three years running – even besting SY Ovation.
“Looking at how VI Shock performed against SY Ovation and knowing how well SY Ovation has performed for us over the years, we knew it was something we had to try,” says Lee Andersen, manager of Ririe Grain & Feed Cooperative in Ririe, Idaho. “The consistently good test weight was also an attractive feature.”
Andy Hooley, owner of Hooley Seed Company in Filer, Idaho, agrees: “VI Shock seems like a variety with good yield potential, and we will continue to evaluate it under a sprinkler. One production field went over 160 bu/ac, which for this year is pretty good. Both our growers doing seed production have been happy with the performance.”
VI Shock characteristics:
• Exceptional yield potential
• Good straw strength
• Consistently high test weight
• Excellent stripe rust resistance
• Excellent end-use quality
Providing a diverse portfolio for the PNW
“As excited as we are for the new genetics, Varsity Idaho is thrilled to offer a range of elite varieties with plentiful certified seed this growing season,” says Kammeyer.
Varsity Idaho varieties with certified seed available now include:
• UI Magic CL+, the current Clearfield soft white winter standard with proven performance across the Pacific Northwest and excellent test weight.
• VI Frost, soft white winter wheat adapted for low rainfall acres in northern Idaho and eastern Washington with excellent winter-hardiness and end-use quality.
• VI Bulldog, soft white winter wheat for high-production, high-input PNW producers with extremely strong straw, excellent stripe rust tolerance and superior quality.
• UI Platinum, hard white spring wheat, and UI Stone, soft white spring wheat, both adapted for southern Idaho with very good straw strength and most desirable quality.