Quality vs yield: US strikes a balance

Published: 01/02/2024

Wheat experts gathered at the Wheat Quality Council’s annual meeting in Kansas City in the US to emphasise the critical balance between high yields and quality in wheat production. Traditionally, producers prioritised yield, but concerns arise as higher yields may compromise wheat quality.
Steve Wirsching, vice president of US Wheat Associates, stressed the need for the US to enhance wheat quality to maintain its global market standing, especially amid rising geopolitical tensions affecting major exporters such as Russia and Ukraine. Quality, particularly protein content, is vital, yet higher-yielding wheat often exhibits lower protein levels, impacting its suitability for baking.
Adverse environmental conditions, including extreme drought, have challenged wheat cultivation, with 85 to 90% of hard red winter wheat facing drought in Kansas. Despite these challenges, the surviving high-quality winter wheat suggests that plant breeders’ investments have been worthwhile.
Various programmes, including the National Wheat Yield Contest and the Kansas Wheat Rx programme, aim to help producers achieve both high quality and yields. By focussing on modern plant breeding and identifying optimal varieties, these initiatives aim to ensure  wheat’s crucial role in feeding future generations. –