Last Modified: Sunday, May 20, 2012 7:02 PM
DERIDDER — A DeRidder farmer is helping the LSU AgCenter determine the best varieties of wheat to grow in southern Louisiana.
David Smith harvested test wheat Tuesday on land off Planer Mill Road, a few miles west of DeRidder.
Smith grows about 600 acres of commercial wheat every year on his farm, in addition to soybeans and corn. He has been growing wheat for about 15 years.
“I started just to try a different crop, and now it’s a staple every year to have some income this time of year for cash flow, but it has been my most consistent crop,” he said.
Smith signed on to grow test plots of 20 varieties of wheat for the AgCenter’s annual small-grains variety trials.
LSU AgCenter specialists and Beauregard County Agent Keith Hawkins teamed with Smith on Tuesday to harvest samples.
Specialists will evaluate the samples to determine grain yield, agronomic performance and disease. Samples will also be collected from other sites in the state.
Hawkins said the process of testing varieties is ongoing.
“We want to see which one has the best yield for south Louisiana, where we have such a warm, moist climate. We also want wheat that shows disease resistance,” he said.
Hawkins said officials appreciate farmers like Smith who lend their time assisting researchers.
“It’s his time, his equipment and his fuel, so we’re grateful,” he said.
Ed Twidwell, an LSU professor and extension specialist in pasture, forage crops and small grains, helped collect the samples and said most of the commercial wheat grown in Louisiana is “soft red winter wheat.”
“Most of it goes into making pasta. It’s not necessarily the best for bread. Most of that wheat comes from the Kansas, Nebraska area. It’s a difference in grain quality,” he said.
Twidwell said the number of farmers in Louisiana growing wheat varies from year to year, depending on the wheat price.
“For the past few years, wheat prices have been in the $6-to-$7-per-bushel range, so there has been a lot of interest in it,” he said.
Twidwell said Louisiana averages 100,000 to 150,000 acres of wheat annually, but over the past year has harvested about 200,000 acres.
“And that’s a pretty sizeable amount of wheat for Louisiana,” he said.
• Online: www.lsuagcenter.com.