Kansas Wheat


Nine out of every ten years, the state of Kansas leads the nation in wheat production. (Kansas produces primarily winter wheat, in which it leads consistently, while North Dakota – leading producer of spring and durum wheat, used for pasta – occasionally snares the overall production crown from The Wheat State.) In an average year, Kansas produces well over 300 million bushels of wheat. So, it was potentially an extremely important discovery announced earlier this month and published in the journal Science by Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), and reported in the Science Daily article Saving Wheat Crops Worldwide: the discovery of a wheat gene that confers resistance to several major wheat crop diseases simultaneously.

As Science Daily explains, the researchers have “identified a wheat gene sequence which provides protection against leaf rust, stripe rust and powdery mildew.

“‘Genetic disease resistance is highly desirable in plants as it is more environmentally friendly and profitable than strategies like spraying pesticides,’ says a senior principal research scientist at CSIRO Plant Industry, Dr Evans Lagudah. ‘The newly identified resistance gene product – known as Lr34 transporter protein – is the first of its kind to be found in a commercial crop that is capable of delivering broad-spectrum control of multiple pathogens.’

“Lr34 has two extremely valuable characteristics. Whereas one gene usually only protects against a single disease for a limited time under commercial production, Lr34 provides long lasting disease resistance and acts against multiple diseases.

“‘The fungi that cause rust diseases are very adaptable and can rapidly evolve to overcome resistant cereal varieties,” Dr Lagudah says. “Scientists and farmers can commonly only respond to a rust outbreak after it has passed, but tests conducted after identifying the Lr34 gene sequence show it has provided partial but constant protection against leaf rust for over 80 years.’”

With the current threat of an emerging global crisis in food production and availability, such developments are welcome news indeed.

For a wealth of historical statistical information on Kansas wheat production going back to 1866, see the 26-page document Kansas Wheat History produced by the US Department of Agriculture’s Kansas Field Office.

Additional information on Kansas wheat is available at the joint website of the Kansas Wheat Commission & Kansas Association of Wheat Growers, and at Wheat Watch from the Kansas State Research & Extension Service.


Published in: on March 10, 2009 at 12:10 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I was wondering if you could tell me how many counties in Kansas grow wheat and the county names and the names of the rivers within those counties?

    • The publication Kansas Farm Facts 2009, a joint production of the US Department of Agriculture and the Kansas Department of Agriculture, lists 93 distinct counties which produced significant quantities of wheat in 2008 — but also includes entries for “other counties” in several regions of the state. So, I think you’d have to assume that virtually every county in the state produces at least some wheat, and that all the major rivers in the state flow through wheat producing counties. Last year, McPherson County was the number one wheat producer.

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