The reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture can feel bleak. This year farmers are projected to plant the second lowest total wheat acreage on record for the U.S. since 1919—47.3 million acres.
Winter wheat acres for 2018 are at the second lowest acreage since 1909, at 32.7 million acres. From new branding efforts, to new structures, to innovative research many scientists and industry professionals across the High Plains are working to ensure that the breadbasket of the world stays right here.
Grassy weed control in wheat acres is a challenge to growing high quality grain the market demands. But a new discovery out of Colorado State University is poised to revolutionize the market.
CoAXium is a wheat production system using the genetic trait, AXigen, identified through traditional wheat breeding methods at Colorado State University. Wheat varieties with the AXigen gene are immune to the Aggressor herbicide, a Group 1 ACCase inhibiting herbicide that controls grassy weeds, such as brome, feral rye, jointed goatgrass and wild oats.
Brad Erker is the new executive director for the Colorado Wheat Research Foundation. The CWRF takes ownership of CSU wheat varieties, and provides money to the wheat breeding program from royalties charged on those varieties.
“Growers on the board told CSU that they wanted a competitive trait product that was similar to how Clearfield worked,” Erker said. However, the AXigen trait is not compatible with the Clearfield system and vice versa, he added.
This summer the first registered seed of the first varieties with the AXigen trait will be available for increase, with a full commercial launch in 2019.
For farmers, though, the CoAXium system allows them to use a lower priced herbicide, with better performance on rye and cheat grasses than what’s available today, Erker said.
“And, as CWRF owns the trait, there will be a trait fee on the seed,” he added. “But, we will invest those genetic royalties back into CSU research. And the trait is extendable to other varieties and other classes of wheat.” The future potential of this trait can improve wheat on a global scale and CWRF, and the licensing can further enhance the capabilities of the CSU wheat breeding program for the betterment of all Colorado wheat growers.
“If we have a successful launch of a trait from a public institution like this, it shows that trait development at CSU is fruitful,” he said. “It could be the start of more patentable traits, and proving we can tackle the big problems wheat farmers face.”
You can read about more innovative wheat projects here.