2023 National Wheat Yield Contest Results

Winning Wheat

Jason Jenkins
By  Jason Jenkins , DTN Crops Editor
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National Wheat Foundation's National Wheat Yield Contest (Logo provided by National Wheat Foundation, Photo by Larry Reichenberger)

Another year, another set of challenges for the nation's wheat growers.

Drought conditions once again reduced winter wheat yield potential across much of the Southern and Central Plains. Violent hailstorms destroyed many fields, adding insult to injury. Hot, dry weather early in the season also was a factor for some spring wheat growers, especially in the Northern Plains.

Despite weather woes, wheat proved its resiliency as the results of National Wheat Yield Contest can attest.

Four new growers earned the title of "Bin Buster" in the contest, with Chris Gross, of Reardan, Washington, topping all entries with irrigated hard red winter wheat that yielded 211.98 bushels per acre (bpa). It's the second-highest yield recorded in the contest's eight-year history.

Sponsored by the National Wheat Foundation (NWF), the contest is designed to encourage wheat growers to strive for high yield, quality and profit while trying new and innovative management strategies. DTN/Progressive Farmer is the official media partner.

Despite the ongoing environmental challenges, 417 entries were received this year, up nearly 25% from 2022 and falling just one entry short of the contest's all-time high. For the 24 national winners from 12 states, the yield average increased to 144 bpa.



Chris Gross, Quality Award Winner
Reardan, Washington
Variety: WestBred Keldin
Yield: 211.98 bpa

A yield exceeding 210 bpa might cause some wheat growers to check their monitor's accuracy. But, for Chris Gross, the tally fell a few kernels short of what he hoped for this season. Still, the result was enough to win top honors in the irrigated winter wheat category.

Gross farms as a member of the Spokane Hutterian Brethren, a community steeped in generations of tradition while also utilizing the latest in technology.

He says the winning wheat yield was raised in a field of mixed soil type. "The area where the highest yield was recorded has a higher water table, and it was sitting in a lower area. The rest of the circle is sandier," he notes.

The variety, WestBred Keldin, was a medium- to late-maturity hard red winter wheat that offers excellent powdery mildew tolerance and handles a diverse set of growing conditions. The variety had a target seeding rate of 750,000 seeds per acre in 7.5-inch rows.

With a nearly Mediterranean-style climate, the eastern portion of Washington is almost ideal for growing wheat. Of the 15 to 18 inches of annual precipitation, only a few inches fall in season. Lack of humidity helps reduce disease pressure.

Sensors, both in the soil and on the irrigator, determine additional water needs. Variable-rate irrigation is used to apply water and nutrients more precisely. The winning entry had 20 inches of water applied throughout the growing season.

Starter fertilizer is applied at planting, but the bulk of the crop's fertility requirements is supplied through irrigation water. Microbials go out as a foliar feed with a sprayer, as needed. Tissue testing is done at the flag leaf stage and again later in the season.

Protein is important with hard red winter wheat; making it without a yield sacrifice requires constant testing to make sure nitrogen is available through critical growth periods. Total nutrients applied per acre to the 2023 winning entry was 374 pounds nitrogen, 20 pounds phosphorus, 40 pounds potash and 68 pounds sulfur.

Overall, the wheat contest is a motivational tool to keep gaining efficiencies and learning from others, something Gross finds invigorating.

"Our tiller counts weren't quite as high as we liked (in 2023)," he says. "What made the area we pulled this sample from better? We are really examining our data and hoping to figure that out so we can apply it to another crop."


Dick Judah, Quality Award Winner
Hillsboro, Oregon
Variety: Limagrain LCS Shine
Yield: 173.77 bpa

Dick Judah has watched wheat's fortunes roll around more than once during his farming career. This year, the crop literally shined for the Oregon farmer, as the variety he planted, LCS Shine, produced the highest yield entered in the dryland winter wheat category.

Judah farms and works for Berger International, a sixth-generation family seed business, located in the northwestern part of Willamette Valley.

The winning entry followed turf-type tall fescue in the rotation. In past years, the farm drilled wheat in 6-inch rows, but this entry was sown with a spreader and then lightly disked into the soil. "We've had pretty good luck seeding that way the last few years, and it's a lot faster," Judah notes. Planting takes place from early to late October at seeding rates that average between 100 to 130 pounds per acre, he adds.

The soft white winter wheat variety was treated with CruiserMaxx Vibrance Cereal seed treatment to protect young seedlings and roots from a range of seedborne and soilborne diseases and early-season insects. Other inputs included a total of 135 pounds nitrogen, 30 pounds potassium, 10 pounds phosphorus and 15 pounds sulfur.

"Management is important. We have a good team making decisions," he says. "And rotation helps. We see good wheat yields as they come out of grass and/or clovers."

Planting a grass into a grass can be problematic, but Judah says the key to avoiding problems is getting a good kill on the fescue. Glyphosate is still the go-to for that job. A different site-of-action herbicide application is used immediately after planting, followed by a phenoxy (such as 2,4-D) in the spring.

Farmers in other parts of the country might drool at the thought of the 45 to 48 inches of annual rainfall experienced in this area. The winning field started off dry in the fall. "Once it started raining, the wheat this year really took off," Judah says, noting that leaf diseases required two fungicide applications, and when head blight threatened, a third application was applied. "We had plenty of moisture during the growing season."

Winning the contest takes Judah back to a time when wheat was more popular in this region. "Lots of things have changed over the years, but we keep working at it and trying to improve," he says. "Mother Nature has a lot to say about how it turns out."


Dallin Wilcox
Rexburg, Idaho
Variety: WestBred WB7589
Yield: 170.14 bpa

After years of placing nationally but falling short of top honors, Dallin Wilcox, a farmer from Rexburg, Idaho, earned the title of "Bin Buster" in the irrigated spring wheat category this year.

Winter didn't want to release its grip on Idaho in 2023, Wilcox says, delaying the start of the growing season. "It meant we had good soil moisture to start, but we were at least three weeks later than usual getting in the field," he adds.

Wilcox planted WestBred WB7589, a hard white spring wheat variety adapted for irrigated environments with excellent yield potential, protein content and stripe rust tolerance. The medium-maturing variety also has excellent standability, test weight and milling and baking quality.

The field containing Wilcox's contest plot was planted using a Great Plains 3S-4000 drill. The field was planted at a rate of about 1.43 million seeds per acre on 6-inch row spacing. The seed was coated with CruiserMaxx Vibrance, which combines three fungicides and one insecticide.

Because Wilcox also raises potatoes with a high nutrient demand, he works hard to maintain soil fertility throughout his rotation. The wheat crop followed potatoes, allowing it to mine any leftover fertility in the soil profile. Nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and sulfur were all applied preplant. Additional nitrogen was applied as starter fertilizer at planting and during irrigation.

Here in this portion of the Snake River Plain, irrigation is essential, as total annual precipitation averages less than 13 inches. Throughout the growing season, Wilcox applied 10 inches of water to his wheat crop.

While the growing season may have been delayed, conditions throughout the summer remained nearly ideal for wheat, Wilcox says. Pest and disease issues never materialized, allowing him to limit his herbicide and fungicide application to just one pass.

Probably the greatest hurdle this year was harvest, he notes. Rains came just as the crop reached maturity, causing some lodging.

Even with a yield exceeding 170 bpa, Wilcox notes the crop maintained good quality, with a protein level just over 13%. While he's been pleased with WestBred WB7589, he says he'll be reviewing the results of on-farm test plots to see if a new variety might have outperformed it.

"We're always looking to improve," Wilcox says. "If there's some seed available with a variety that I think will do better, whether it's hard red or hard white, I'll plant a field and give it a try."


Brad Disrud, Quality Award Winner
Rolla, North Dakota
Variety: WestBred WB9590
Yield: 129.98 bpa

As the old saying goes, "You have to be in it to win it." In 2022, Brad Disrud simply wasn't in it.

"I should have entered the contest last year," the farmer admits. "We had some really good wheat that I think would've been in the running. So, I kind of learned from that. We entered this year [2023] and did a little bit extra on this one plot. It made all the difference."

Despite being a first-time participant in the yield contest, Disrud used his two decades of farming experience to earn the "Bin Buster" title in the dryland spring wheat category in 2023. His winning yield not only topped this year's entries, it also was nearly 5 bpa more than last year's winner in the same category.

Disrud planted WestBred WB9590, a hard red spring wheat variety the seed company describes as having broad adaptability with excellent yield potential, protein content and standability. The North Dakota farmer planted the field at a rate of 1.5 million seeds per acre on 7.5-inch row spacing using a no-till air drill. The seed was coated with Raxil Pro Shield, an all-in-one insecticide and fungicide seed treatment.

"At planting, we've also been doing quite a bit with starter fertilizers, mixing sulfur with 11-52-0 MAP (monoammonium phosphate)," Disrud says. "I think that's where we're catching a lot of yield bump by getting that crop out of the ground with ample nutrition right from the start."

Disrud adds that he's been increasing his nitrogen application rates, pushing to see what the WestBred variety can achieve.

"It has good standability in the field, so it can handle a lot more nitrogen," he says. "It doesn't lodge. If you can put that kind of nitrogen to it and keep it standing, it'll fill out nice and get big heads and heavy kernels. It has that yield potential."

Postemergence weed control was achieved with a pass containing Huskie Complete and MCP Amine. Fungicides, including Propi-Star EC and Prosaro PRO 400 SC, were applied at various intervals during the growing season.

"We made three fungicide passes on the plot this year," Disrud says. "We'll make an application at the flag leaf stage, which a lot of people don't do, but I've noticed that it's made a lot of bushels doing that. We just try to keep everything as healthy as you can, and hopefully, Mother Nature comes through for you."



First Place: Derek Berger, Quality Award Winner
Hillsboro, Oregon
Variety: Limagrain LCS Shine
Yield: 171.58 bpa

Second Place: Randy Eschenburg
Almont, Michigan
Variety: Michigan State Whitetail
Yield: 169.75 bpa

Third Place: Kent Edwards, Quality Award Winner
Castalia, Ohio
Variety: Pioneer 25R29
Yield: 169.4 bpa

Fourth Place: Guy Gochenour, Quality Award Winner
Woodstock, Virginia
Variety: Mid-Atlantic Seeds 139
Yield: 163.31 bpa

Fifth Place: William Willard
Frederick, Maryland
Variety: Pioneer 25R64
Yield: 157.67 bpa


First Place: Marc Arnusch
Keenesburg, Colorado
Variety: Limagrain Helix AX
Yield: 130.69 bpa, 330.5% above Weld County, Colorado, average

Second Place: Brett Arnusch
Keenesburg, Colorado
Variety: Limagrain Helix AX
Yield: 130.64 bpa, 330.3% above Weld County, Colorado, average

Third Place: Travis Freeburg, Quality Award Winner
Pine Bluffs, Wyoming
Variety: PlainsGold Brawl CL Plus
Yield: 118.24 bpa, 295% above Kimball County, Nebraska, average

Fourth Place: Casey Cantwell
Keenesburg, Colorado
Variety: Limagrain Helix AX
Yield: 99.75 bpa, 229% over Weld County, Colorado, average

Fifth Place: David Ebers
Wellston, Oklahoma
Variety: WestBred WB4699
Yield: 114.88 bpa, 204% above Seminole County, Oklahoma, average

First Place: Gary Reynolds
Castleford, Idaho
Variety: Syngenta SY Ovation
Yield: 201.94 bpa

Second Place: Nick Suwyn, Quality Award Winner
Wayland, Michigan
Variety: DF Seeds DF-131
Yield: 171.71 bpa

First Place: John Wesolowski, Quality Award Winner
Warren, Minnesota
Variety: WestBred WB9590
Yield: 126.09 bpa

Second Place: Lance Olson
Mott, North Dakota
Variety: WestBred WB9606
Yield: 122.09 bpa

Third Place: Trevor Stout
Genesee, Idaho
Variety: WestBred WB9623
Yield: 119.91 bpa


First Place: Austin Kautzman
Mott, North Dakota
Variety: WestBred WB9606
Yield: 119.94 bpa, 273% above Grant County, North Dakota, average

Second Place: Jason Signalness
Watford City, North Dakota
Variety: Croplan CP3099A
Yield: 109.13 bpa, 250% above McKenzie County, North Dakota, average

Third Place: Devan Laufer, Quality Award Winner
Mott, North Dakota
Variety: WestBred WB9719
Yield: 109.84 bpa, 241% above Adams County, North Dakota, average


First Place: Jess Blatchford
Haines, Oregon
Variety: WestBred WB6341
Yield: 164.5 bpa

Second Place: Jeff Bieber
Fairview, Montana
Variety: WestBred WB9719
Yield: 109.33 bpa


Winners in the 2023 National Wheat Yield Contest also had their grain evaluated for quality. Samples were milled and analyzed for grain-quality characteristics such as test weight and protein, as well as flour characteristics such as falling number, gluten percentage, consistency and stability. As a final step, the flour samples were used to produce baked goods.

"It's important to have those functional qualities that a miller and baker are demanding, because that's what our customers, both international and domestic, are expecting," says Anne Osborne, National Wheat Foundation's project manager for the yield contest. "The quality component of the contest gives us an opportunity to educate growers on why it is so important that they select varieties with the characteristics that end users desire."



-- For a complete list of contest rules, visit https://yieldcontest.wheatfoundation.org/…

-- Follow Jason, Crops Editor, on X (formerly Twitter) @JasonJenkinsDTN

-- Pamela Smith, Senior Crops Editor, contributed to this story. Follow the latest from her by visiting the Production Blogs at https://www.dtnpf.com/… or following her on X (formerly Twitter) @PamSmithDTN


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