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Michigan Wheat Program Inaugural Annual Report 2011-2013

Making history for the wheat farmers of Michigan.

Michigan Wheat Program

Michigan Wheat Producers: Welcome to the Inaugural Annual Report for the Michigan Wheat Program! Several years ago, a group of farmers, crop consultants and ag leaders got together to discuss the need for more research and education to increase the yield and quality of Michigan wheat. The movement for a grower-funded wheat program had begun. A lot of work went into developing the proposed wheat check-off program. It culminated with a successful vote in July 2011, when Michigan wheat producers approved the new Michigan Wheat Program. Gov. Rick Snyder appointed our first nine-member board later that year. Our initial board, all of whom are still serving, includes men who are not only experienced in farming, but also in business and finance, grain elevators, the seed industry and the food business. Every board member is very dedicated to developing this program and ensuring the wheat industry’s success. In March 2012, Jody Pollok-Newsom was hired as our Executive Director. She had over 15 years experience with Michigan commodity programs, and she’s guided our board through a quick start up. As board members, we hold your trust. We’re committed to aggressive goal-setting to seek what’s best for our industry. I invite you to review our results to date, and join our continuing efforts to improve the Michigan wheat industry. Thank you for your support! Sincerely,

David Milligan, Chairman, Michigan Wheat Program

David Milligan Chairman Farm: Milligan Farms, LLC Location: Cass City (District 7) Crops Grown: wheat, corn, soybeans, dry beans David Milligan farms in Cass City, located in Michigan’s “thumb” and serves as Chairman of the board. He played an important role on the temporary committee of wheat farmers who drafted guidelines and worked to gain passage of the wheat check-off. Milligan has been chairman of the board since its inception. He once served on Michigan’s Dry Bean Commission and was Chair of the American Dry Bean Board. Milligan serves as a board member on the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG), reflecting Michigan’s new clout in the national wheat organization. He also represents Michigan on NAWG’s Research Committee and is on the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Wheat Committee.

. P.O. Box 25065 Lansing, MI 48909 • toll free: 1-888-WHEAT01 (943-2801) • fax: 517-625-6061

Wheat: Michigan’s newest commodity board The Michigan Wheat Program was created to meet the needs of Michigan wheat growers. Its nine-member board of directors was appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder in November 2011. The board has worked incredibly hard and met almost every month since their inaugural meeting in December 2011. As directors’ initial appointments expired, each has opted to submit his name for re-appointment. The MWP board has been very fortunate, as Gov. Snyder has approved of its progress and re-appointed all original board members. Read on for more about the highly-qualified individuals leading the MWP.

Scott Heussner Treasurer Farm: Heussner Farms Location: Marlette (District 5) Crops Grown: wheat, corn, soybeans, dry beans Scott Heussner has served as Treasurer since the board’s first elections. He holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from Michigan State University, a skill set that enhances his financial responsibilities for MWP. After graduating college, he left for the bright lights of Chicago where he worked on the trading floor of the Chicago Board of Trade. “It took me four years at MSU and that following summer in Chicago to realize my heart was back on the farm,” Heussner said. “The opportunity to continue the family farm was available, thanks to my father – and his father before him.” “I hope to give the same opportunity to my kids, if it’s something they want to do,” he said. Today, Heussner farms in Marlette with his father. Fun fact: While “down time” is at a premium in modern agriculture, Heussner enjoys spending it with his wife, Kelly, and their two children, Alex and Emma.

Art Loeffler

Chris Schmidt

Vice Chair


Occupation: Star of the West Milling Company

Farm: Schmidt Farms

Location: Frankenmuth (District 9)

Location: Auburn (District 8)

Bringing the market-side of the wheat business to the board is Art Loeffler, president of Star of the West Milling Company. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business from Michigan State University. As a miller, Loeffler explains that this sector is under increasing pressure from customers to demonstrate sustainability and show what the industry is doing to supply food to a growing population with limited resources. He notes that the wheat industry is required to supply insect-free food, while at the same time the US Environmental Protection Agency continues to eliminate fumigants without allowing the needed time to identify a safe replacement. Loeffler has also served as controller of Star of the West, and previously as an internal auditor for Kraft Foods, and the Yeo & Yeo CPA firm. Loeffler played a leadership role in the temporary committee of wheat farmers with the vision to create the Michigan Wheat Program. He was re-appointed in 2012, and has been MWP’s only Vice Chair. Fun Fact: Art is a past trustee of the Hidden Harvest Food Bank, and once served as the Volkslaufe Chairman in Frankenmuth. (You’ll have to ask him to explain it.)

Crops Grown: wheat, corn, soybeans, oats Chris Schmidt came back to farm in Auburn located in the“heart of the Saginaw Valley” after earning a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Michigan Technological University in the state’s Upper Peninsula. He is very involved in Michigan’s seed industry and operates his seed plant just outside the Auburn city limits. His family farm is fourth generation having passed down on his mother’s side of the family. Schmidt believes in the importance of adding value to the crops he produces and adding profitability through vertical integration. “Integrate vertically, add value, fill the niche and have fun doing it!” he says. Schmidt served on the temporary committee that created the MWP, and was elected the commission’s first secretary – a role he still holds. He serves as a board member of the National Association of Wheat Growers and sits on NAWG’s Domestic and Trade Policy Committee. Schmidt also served nine years on the Michigan Crop Improvement Association Board of Directors – serving two years as the association’s president. Fun fact: Chris played 1st chair tuba in the junior high symphony band (there was only one tuba player), and once met Sir Richard Branson while drinking beer at the marina on Beef Island (British Virgin Islands).

Gerald Heck

Dean Kantola

Farm: Heck Farms, LLC

Farm: Kantola Farms, Inc.

Location: Monroe (District 3)

Location: Ravenna (District 1)

Crops Grown: wheat, corn, soybeans

Crops Grown: wheat, corn, soybeans

Gerald Heck represents wheat growers in Southeast Michigan, where he produces row crops including wheat. Heck’s view of farming has changed over the years.

Dean Kantola represents wheat growers on the west side of the state, where he farms in Muskegon County. To stay competitive with larger farms, Kantola shares labor with his brother in the spring and the fall, planting and harvesting their crops. The Kantolas also jointly own their equipment.

“I now view my role as a farmer to be a steward of the land and a mentor to the younger farmers,” he says. “We must remember that the health of our soils is the lifeblood of our business.” Heck holds a B.S. in animal science from Michigan State University, and has been widely recognized for his on-farm efforts in environmental sustainability. In 2010 he received both the Ecology Leadership Award from Monroe County Farm Bureau and the Conservation Farm of the Year from the Monroe Soil and Water District.

He’s been farming since 1978, and is also a partner in Kantola Farms Trucking. He has switched to grid sampling on the farm, as well as variable rate fertilizer spreading to control costs. Kantola was on the temporary wheat farmer committee that developed the MWP and promoted it for the referendum. He was re-appointed to MWP’s board in 2012.

Fun fact: Farming was his destiny. Heck says that he – and everyone else in high school – always knew he was destined to be a farmer. And in the challenging world of agriculture, Heck says a sense of humor has served him well.

Fun fact: One of the things Dean enjoys when he’s not farming is standing waistdeep in a cold river steelhead fishing with his kids.

William Hunt

Carl Sparks

Farm: Hunt Farms, Inc.

Farm: Sparks Cedarlee Farm, LLC

Location: Davison (District 4)

Location: Cassopolis (District 2)

Crops Grown: wheat, corn, soybeans

Crops Grown: wheat, corn, soybeans, hay, pasture

About farming, William Hunt says that “not all people know what they want to do in life. I knew I wanted to be a farmer from an early age, but I wanted to be a good farmer. I believe farming is a passion. You either have it or you don’t.”  “I strive for continued education for farmers, especially myself so I can do the best possible job as it relates to efficiency, marketing and being a good steward of the land entrusted to me. I believe I have one of the best jobs on earth... I have a part in feeding the world and I am proud to be an American Farmer,” Hunt concluded. In addition to serving as owner and president of Hunt Farms in Davison, Hunt is serving his second term on the MWP board, he is on the County Committee for the Farm Service Agency and as Vice President of the Genesee County Farm Bureau. Fun fact: When Hunt graduated from high school he was a paraprofessional in auto mechanics. He liked it and thought he might be a teacher. Also in the category of good student, Hunt wrote a paper in middle school entitled, simply: “Farming.” He got an A+, and his wife, Glenda, says it is a well-written paper even to this day!

Carl Sparks farms with his family in the Cassopolis area. In addition to field crops, the Sparks family is also involved in the livestock industry. The family milks dairy cows, utilizes rotational grazing and they finish hogs on contract. Sparks’ farming philosophy is to plan his work, then work his plan – knowing that God gives the increase. He earned a bachelor’s degree in crops and soil science from Michigan State University, and is active in several farming organizations, most recently, the Cass County Michigan Farm Bureau chairman of the Promotion & Education Committee. Sparks represents wheat growers in Southwest Michigan. Fun fact: In 1974, at age 14, Sparks won the Michigan 4-H Tractor Skill Contest, and then competed at the Eastern National in Virginia. He didn’t win at nationals, but was quite possibly the youngest competitor.

Frank Vyskocil

Jody Pollok-Newsom

Farm: Shiawassee Valley Farms

MWP: Executive Director

Location: New Lothrop (District 6)

Location: Lansing-Morrice

Crops Grown: wheat, corn, soybeans

Hired by MWP: 2012

Frank Vyskocil brings 50 years of farming experience to the board from his Shiawassee County farm.

Jody Pollok-Newsom was hired by the Michigan Wheat Program and began full-time as its first executive director April 1, 2012. She brought nearly 20 years’ experience leading agricultural commodity organizations.

Vyskocil is a third-generation farmer, and believes that in order for his farm to remain profitable and sustain any potential market threat, it’s important to be on the cutting-edge in regard to technology, innovation, fertilizer, soil management and marketing strategies. The goal of Shiawassee Valley Farms is to have profitable yields while maintaining a solid financial foundation. Vyskocil was re-appointed by the governor to a second three-year term on the MWP in 2013. Fun fact: Frank has never had a change of address in 67 years. He’s staying put!

As executive director of both the Michigan Corn Growers Association and Corn Marketing Program of Michigan, Pollok-Newsom has worked to grow commodity research programs, grower education programs, consumer awareness, public policy positions and market opportunities for Michigan row crop farmers for 13 years. In addition, Pollok-Newsom worked in communications for the Cherry Industry Administrative Board, and served four years as the Michigan Department of Agriculture liaison between all state ag commodities under two department directors. Pollok-Newsom holds B.S. and M.S. degrees from Michigan State University, is married and has a 3-year-old daughter who is becoming an expert at labeling pretzel bags for wheat events. Pollok-Newsom is an only child and is very close to her family on their farm in Williamston. Fun fact: Pollok-Newsom was voted “class farmer” in high school, and had distinguished her ag roots by middle school by placing second in a single-horse, powderpuff pull. Since 2001 she has anchored and produced the Michigan Farm and Garden TV show.

the mwp board of directors spent funds in the following areas:

Assessment collection 5.5%

Board expenses 10%

Communications/Education 4.5%

Events 15.5%

Office 4%

Professional fees 1.5%

Research 52%

Sponsorship/Membership 7%

Total spent $479,383.00

In the beginning . . . Michigan farmers have talked about a wheat program for almost 20 years! While wheat is an important crop in Michigan – 40 million bushels in an average year – at first farmers weren’t convinced that its needs required full-time research, education, communication, market development and promotional support. After all, the Michigan Department of Agriculture, Michigan Farm Bureau, Michigan State University, Michigan State University Extension and other ag commodity groups represented many of the industry’s key concerns – as they do to this day. Environmental issues, water use, crop insurance and many other topics were already being addressed by these organizations. But gradually farmers became aware that the unique crop needs of wheat – the need to take productivity and quality to the next level – were not being addressed. And would not be addressed unless wheat farmers took the lead to chart their own future and have their own organization solely looking out for wheat farmers’ interests. The first effort for a wheat check-off program was voted down in 2001. A recession intervened, research and program funding was cut by other organizations and wheat farmers realized they must fulfill their future vision through a wheat check-off program. Then organization work began in earnest with support from other ag organizations, millers, end users, researchers, ag business and other key ag leaders. This time: Success! Following is the timeline of the historic establishment of the Michigan Wheat Program.







Michigan Farm Bureau committee recommends pursuing a wheat checkoff program

Petitions prepared, wheat farmer petition signatures sought, funding secured

Public hearings held, wheat check-off program to farmer vote

Initial referendum voted down

MSU and Michigan Farm Bureau host wheat 2020 meetings

Michigan Farm Bureau and MSU Extension hold grower meeting to pursue a wheat check-off again Signatures collected from Michigan wheat farmers to put commodity group formation to ballot Committee formed to draft the program.

May 2012

Aug. 2012

Oct. 2012

Dec. 2012

Dec. 2012

Dec. 2012

First assessment collection on Michigan wheat

First research meeting held to solicit proposals. 5 researchers funded

MWP website launched (

Board begins strategic planning

First seed wheat assessments collected

MWP staff and board members began attending winter grower meetings

Developing a Wheat Strategy: In the strategic planning process held during the winter of 2012-13, MWP gathered together leaders including farmers, the seed industry, researchers, millers, end users and other commodity organization staff. “Developing our first-ever strategic plan was exciting,” says board Chairman David Milligan. “We had a completely blank slate, and we were all mindful that this was the only time that would be the case.” “We wanted to set the right course for the Michigan wheat industry, which has entrusted our board with leading us down the most profitable, productive path,” Milligan said. “We are a year into putting this plan into action, and believe in its tenets and are pleased with how much we have already accomplished.”

MWP Mission: Promote a viable, thriving and growing Michigan wheat industry that includes input suppliers, seed producers, growers, millers, end users and consumers.

Areas of Focus: Research • Yield • Quality Production • Equity Education & Communication • Awareness Promotion • Develop support for industry Market Development • Options for farmers June 2011

Sept. 2011

Nov. 2011

Dec. 2011

Feb. 2012

Feb. 2012

Ballots mailed to nearly 8,000 Michigan wheat growers

The Michigan Wheat Program was approved. (of 1,374 ballots cast, 54 percent of producers representing 54 percent of the state’s wheat crop all approved.)

Governor Rick Snyder appointed first 9-member board of Michigan Wheat Program

Inaugural board meeting of MWP

MWP hired first Executive Director, Jody Pollok-Newsom

Wheat Grower Meeting held in two locations

Jan. 2013

Jan. 2013

Mar. 2013

Mar. 2013

May 2013

Jun. 2013

Request for Research Proposals Distributed

MWP joins National Association of Wheat Growers

Second round of research proposals received, 12 were funded in April 2013

MWP Annual Meeting with more than 200 in attendance

MSU wheat breeder hired with MWP financial support

First-ever Michigan Wheat College

research project profiles

The MWP board is focused on research as one of the industry’s highest priorities. Research was one of the key priorities identified in launching the wheat check-off, and it was re-affirmed during strategic planning when grower meetings identified quality and yield as their two biggest challenges. Read the project profiles on the next few pages to get a quick summary of what’s underway for MWP-funded research.

On-boarding the Michigan Wheat Initiative Years: 2013-2014 Investigator: Martin Nagelkirk Budget: $20,000 MSU Extension Educator Martin Nagelkirk has been focused on wheat since 2010, as a leader of the start-up Michigan Wheat Initiative originally funded by Michigan State University’s Project GREEEN (Generating Research & Extension to meet Economic Needs) and MSU Extension. The initiative was launched to improve the profitability of wheat production in Michigan through field research and educational activities. As the project moved past the start-up phase, Nagelkirk – whose appointment allows a 75 percent focus on wheat statewide – turned to the MWP board for financial assistance for his operational funding and on-going research. His 2014 work plan includes: • on-farm wheat trials; • fungicide efficacy, Fusarium head scab and nitrogen fertilization field trials; • production of educational fact sheets on Fusarium head scab and foliar diseases; • presentations at many grower programs and events; • organization of in-season field meetings; • numerous other educational activities with a wide range of collaborators including coordination of MI Wheat Watchers, a volunteer network that regularly reports the status of wheat and pests across the state to improve industry coordination. Nagelkirk has been very helpful to the MWP. “He has been an asset to our organization as we have developed educational programming and our research focus,” said Dave Milligan, MWP chairman.

Better measures of Michigan wheat production practices Years: 2012 Investigator: Roy Black Budget: $2,000 This project by MSU professor and ag economist Roy Black seeks to provide a better understanding of Michigan’s wheat production and more specifically the state’s wheat farmers’ practices while also providing a benchmark of the state of the industry at the time of the referendum. Black will bring more statistical information about what is happening on the state’s wheat land and what technology farmers are utilizing on their crops. He is able to utilize the results of the surveys farmers completed during the referendum vote to get a snapshot of what wheat production looks like in the state. Once Black has that snapshot, he can compare how things have changed and look at trends for production practices, tillage methods, inputs utilized and varieties grown for both red and white wheat. The Michigan Wheat Program board of directors plans to utilize this information in further focusing their research to make sure projects get funded that make the most difference to the state’s farmers.

To control sprouting: Go where the “wild” wheat is Year: 2013 Investigators: Dr. Eric Olson, Dr. Perry K.W. Ng Budget: $30,202 This proposal was funded to address the lack of pre-harvest sprouting resistant genetic material in modern elite soft white winter wheat breeding lines. The partnership of Dr. Eric Olson, of Michigan State University’s Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences, and Dr. Perry Ng of MSU’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition seeks to identify genes for pre-harvest sprouting resistance from the most recent ancestor of wheat (Aegilops tauschii) and use traditional breeding to transfer those genes to MSU wheat lines. Clearly, having wheat with a stronger resistance to sprouting would increase the falling numbers (i.e., higher falling number values indicate lower degree of sprouting), while still maintaining other desirable traits, and will have a positive impact on the quality of wheat grown in Michigan (and elsewhere) and also on farmers’ willingness to include wheat in the rotation. Researchers will use a population in which chromosome segments have been substituted for modern wheat chromosomes. The project will identify which chromosome segments contribute to pre-harvest sprouting resistance. Currently, about 1,200 wheat breeding lines are being grown, studied and analyzed for sprouting tendency, falling numbers, milling and other quality parameters. New sources of genetic resistance to pre-harvest sprouting and maintenance of a high falling number will help reduce the risk associated with growing white wheat in Michigan, ultimately ensuring farmers get the highest possible return on their crop

Using ‘N’ to its best advantage Year: 2012-2013-2014 Investigators: Dr. Kurt Steinke Budget: $5,142 (Aug. 2012) $25,517 (April 2013) Nitrogen (N) is the most limiting nutrient for wheat production, yet Michigan farmers may not be using enough of it or may be using N at the wrong time potentially leaving profits on the table and residual N in the field after harvest. Too little nitrogen ultimately reduces yields through poor tillering and protein production yet too much or poorly timed N creates excessive vegetative growth leading to increased disease potential in addition to lodging and quality problems. Dr. Kurt Steinke, of MSU’s Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences began addressing this issue with MWP funding in 2012. He began looking at the optimum timing, rate and formulation for N applications to ‘Red Ruby’ soft red winter wheat. Michigan wheat farmers have traditionally applied N at spring green-up, yet some farmers’ experimentation indicates that this may be too early to be effective. A few farmers are applying urea-ammonium nitrate (UAN) when flag leaf tips are just visible and reporting yields over 100 bushels per acre. Steinke has also observed that sulfur deposits from the atmosphere (i.e. acid rain) have decreased in the US by 75 percent since the 1990s. While good for the environment, this may have had a negative impact on wheat’s ability to utilize nitrogen. Several states east of the Mississippi have reported increased productivity of 4-10 bushels per acre when ammonium sulfate was used as the source of nitrogen. Steinke has designed pilot tests to explore these anecdotal reports, looking for optimum nitrogen-sulfur combinations and the best timing in the lifecycle of the wheat crop for N application, either as UAN, urea or ammonium sulfate. Steinke has completed his first year of research and is doing additional work again funded by the Michigan Wheat Program to compare results over multiple years, but so far his research has been very promising when it comes to increasing yields with additional applications and rates of nitrogen. For the 2013-14 year, Steinke has received additional funding to duplicate his research, but will also be focusing on planting date, N rate, and N timing interactions to allow individual wheat growers to cater specific N management programs according to how wheat looks coming out of winter dormancy given the weather conditions of the growing season.

Double time: Wheat breeding on the hustle Year: 2013-2014 Investigators: Dr. Eric Olson Budget: $38,320 By forging a novel public-private, Michigan-Kansas partnership, the Michigan Wheat Program is bringing a significant improvement in technology to the MSU wheat breeding program. A big expansion in number of wheat strains under review in Michigan – including elite varieties – will be achieved in a single year, something that has not been possible in the past. MWP funding of this project enables MSU’s winter wheat breeding program and its new wheat breeder Dr. Eric Olson to make great strides in a short time by partnering with Heartland Plant Innovations in Manhattan, Kansas. Heartland employs a unique, highly-technical process to develop genetically uniform wheat breeding lines. The process involves pollinating wheat with maize, which effectively drops a wheat strain’s chromosome number in half. A chemical treatment then doubles the chromosome number, creating genetic uniformity in that strain. This is called doubled haploid technology and it greatly shortens the wheat breeding cycle, an advantage that was not previously available to the MSU wheat breeding program. Wheat lines produced by this method are uniform and immediately ready for field testing. Doubled haploids allow wheat breeders to move new traits into elite wheat lines quickly in response to production challenges. With doubled haploid breeding, a new line can be identified and evaluated in three or four years. MSU currently requires four or five years to identify genetically uniform lines, and up to seven years to see the results of the genetic crosses. This project, supported by the MWP, will create 2,000 doubled haploid, genetically uniform wheat breeding lines to be further tested.

Nitrogen Plot Work May 22, 2013 90N GU

45N GU, 45N GS5

135N GU

90N GU, 45N GS5

Taking another go at breeding wheat for fusarium head blight resistance Year: 2013 Investigator: Dr. Frances Trail, Dr. Eric Olson Budget: $12,000 Another important wheat disease is scab brought on by Fusarium graminearum. It particularly infects individual kernels in wheat seedheads during flowering, and is likely to grow further down the stalk and stem. Scab infection in wheat also leads to formation of mycotoxins that are dangerous to animals and people. Controlling Fusarium has frustrated wheat breeders for years and breeding to avoid it has had minimal success. Trail, a professor in the Department of Plant Biology, has focused on scab disease for several years in multiple crops. She is particularly interested in natural plant phenomenon that prevents scab fungi from spreading, dispersing its spores and thereby multiplying in the environment. The manner in which scab infiltrates the wheat kernel is through the dying anther, which leaves very tiny gaps in the seedhead tissue.

MSU hires wheat breeder to advance industry Year: 2013-2014-2015 Budget: $25,000, $25,000, $25,000 Another key to improving the productivity and profitability of wheat in Michigan is supporting the Michigan State University wheat breeding and genetics program. MSU’s wheat breeder left the university in 2011, leaving the state’s millers and end users concerned about the future of wheat research here, most notably for soft white winter wheat commonly used in cereal, cakes, cookies and crackers. The soft white wheat grown primarily in states east of the Mississippi and Ontario has seen acreage sharply decline. The same class of wheat is grown in large quantities in the Northwestern US, but its processing qualities are different and the trucking distance is too far for Michigan-based processors such as Kellogg Company, Mondelez, General Mills, Chelsea Milling, Star of the West and Knappen Milling to make economic sense except in times of significant disease or sprout. Fearing a decline in the quantity and quality of Michigan wheat, the millers and end users established the Eastern Soft White Wheat Council (ESWWC) that funded an endowment which, in part, supports the MSU breeder. MWP was able to partner with the Michigan Crop Improvement Association and ESWWC; each put $25,000 annually for three years into that position. MSU filled the position and hired Dr. Eric Olson who received his doctorate in genetics from Kansas State University in 2012. His dissertation was on wheat breeding and he has an extensive background in wheat genetics. Olson is targeting high yield potential, exceptional quality and disease resistance for improving soft white and red winter wheat for Michigan. He has been a collaborator on at least seven MWP-funded research projects in the last year, which represented funding above and beyond the financial support of the position. Such collaborative support ensures a strong partnership between the direction of the breeding program and MWP’s priorities. It also speaks clearly to the MSU administration that Michigan’s wheat industry puts its money where its needs are. Olson’s lab performs about 700 crosses per year, plus the 2000 new lines from the MWP-funded doubled haploid research.

Yet in the scab-susceptible wheat cultivar Norm, 25 percent of the seedheads never developed scab. Trail discovered these kernels had the ability to shut down the scab infiltration by creating pectin “plugs” for these tiny gaps. Trail’s theory is that the very act of the fungal invasion triggers some wheat kernels to “wall off” the invader by moving pectin from the inter-cellular space into the plant cellular vessels that Fusarium travels through. This prevents the Fusarium from spreading further into other kernels. New techniques and new wheat cultivars that optimize the pectin-producing abilities of a wheat seedhead would be a natural and highly effective way of shutting down the spread of scab, and the resulting mycotoxins, both of which can render a harvest significantly less valuable. Trail and Olson are working on identifying a group of genes with some relationship to the pectin-producing response to scab fungus in soft winter wheat. By the end of the funding period, Trail and Olson anticipate having a group of genes that enhance resistance to wheat scab. Experiments have been done on the Norm wheat line, and in the future will look at other soft white winter wheat varieties that have some resistance. Their goal is to trigger wheat to display scab resistance by halting the fungal infection at very early stages of disease development.

Wheat strains: Picking out the good guys sooner Year: 2013 Investigators: Dr. Perry K.W. Ng, Dr. Eric Olson Budget: $42,764

Testing high-management strategies on wheat productivity Year: 2013-2014 Investigators: Lee Siler, Eric Olson Budget: $13,227-year one & $20,000-year two

Recognizing the fact that 80 percent of all white winter wheat grown in Michigan comes from seed lines developed by MSU wheat breeders, this joint project between the Departments of Plant, Soil & Microbial Sciences and Food Science & Human Nutrition, was proposed to strengthen the breeding program.

As the debate emerges between high-management and traditional wheat production strategies, researcher Eric Olson and technician Lee Siler of the MSU Department of Plant, Soil & Microbial Sciences gathered data in 2013 on both approaches at the Tuscola County research plot near Richville.

Ng’s and Olson’s second joint project funded by the MWP board expands the tools available to evaluate promising new wheat varieties sooner in the breeding-tomarket process.

The trials were comprehensive, involving all 93 commercial varieties and experimental wheat seed lines that were included in the 2012-13 MSU Wheat State Performance Trials. Every variety had eight plots, four each in the highmanagement and unmanaged protocols.

In general, a breeder needs 10 to 14 years to release a variety to growers. Currently, there are two checkpoints along the road to development. A couple of years into the process, MSU’s Wheat Breeding Program selects and submits about 150 wheat seed lines for micro-testing to the USDA Soft Wheat Laboratory in Ohio. The Ohio lab – which is inundated with testing from numerous state breeding programs – conducts limited trials on wheat milling and baking qualities. The results are used to winnow down the 150 breeding lines from MSU. The next testing occurs about two years prior to market introduction, when six to eight potential new varieties are extensively tested for grain, milling and baking properties. Ng and Olson believe a midway evaluation point – perhaps four to six years into the breeding work – done in Michigan might yield other promising seedlines. For example, the midway evaluation point could identify lines with good solvent retention capacity, flour viscosity and cookie-baking properties much earlier in the process. Ng’s and Olson’s proposal involves conducting midway evaluations at the MSU Cereal Science Laboratory, looking at 30 to 40 varieties. They’ll select first for desirable falling numbers, and then mill the grain for additional analyses. To the extent that better information can be developed on new seedlines earlier in the process, the MSU wheat breeding program can be even more effective for the state’s farmers.

The high-management protocol included early spring nitrogen application, “first node” nitrogen application and herbicide; “full flag” or “flag leaf emergence” fungicide; and fungicide when heading was complete or when flowering began. Results were included in the 2013 Wheat Performance Trial data, which was released in August, 2013. It is posted on MWP’s website at http://www.miwheat. org/2013-variety-trial-information/. In this first year, high-management trials yielded 112 bushels per acre – 18 percent more than the unmanaged plot at the same location – while average test weight was 59.9 for high managed wheat versus 59.2 for conventional wheat. While the results are promising, farmers are cautioned that you should review at least three years of data when making planting decisions as this presents a wider range of potential weather and disease challenges. In order to provide that additional data, the MWP has again funded high management plots and Olson and Siler have expanded the program to three sites. In the fall of 2013, plans were made to take the research protocols developed at Richville and expand them to include the 2013-14 wheat breeding trials at the Ingham/Mason, Lenawee and Tuscola county plots. As in 2013, every commercial and research variety in the 2014 MSU Wheat State Performance Trial will have three plots each of high management and unmanaged, but this time the tests will extend to all three locations. Results will be available in early August 2014.

The leading edge: Research on healthier wheat Year: 2013 Investigators: Dr. Perry K.W. Ng, Dr. Eric Olson Budget: $20,647.50 While fresh produce has stolen much of the limelight when it comes to healthy antioxidants and phenolic compounds in a daily diet, it turns out that cereal grains might also have something healthy to offer! If researchers can figure out which healthy properties are triggered by plant genetics or the growing environment, wheat breeders can narrow their genetic selections for making their choices for breeding. Consumption of whole grain products is growing in North America, in part due to their role in reducing the risk of chronic ailments such as cardiovascular disease. These beneficial effects are attributed both to fiber and the unique phytochemicals, mainly phenolic compounds, present in grains. Phenolic compounds have antioxidant properties and are able to scavenge free radicals at the cellular level, which helps prevent some diseases. While considerable data exists on these benefits in soybeans, there is still much to be learned about how the industry can grow and mill wheat with higher phenolic levels. Both European and Canadian studies have found genetic diversity in phenolic content among wheat strains, and the food-processing industry is now beginning to talk about wheat lines with enhanced phenolic content that leads to improved nutraceutical qualities. This project by Dr. Perry Ng, of MSU’s Department of Food Science & Human Nutrition, seeks to better analyze phenolic content and antioxidant activity of multiple milled wheat components and several different wheat breeding lines. Ng and Olson plan to associate phenolic content and antioxidant activity with environmental conditions and specific wheat strains, with the ultimate goal of breeding wheat for these healthy whole-grain properties that are becoming very desirable in the marketplace and by consumers. Hopefully the funding by the MWP board will allow them to more quickly identify these varieties and get them to growers.

Project funds innovative disease, insect sample program at MSU Years: 2013 Investigator: Jan Byrne Budget: $2,497 A particularly innovative project of the MWP is providing wheat farmers with financial support for and timely access to the well-respected Michigan State University Plant Diagnostic Laboratory. In April 2013, the MWP board of directors decided to partner with the MSU Plant Diagnostic Lab and financially support the program in order to expand Michigan wheat farmers’ crop evaluation submissions. MSU’s Plant Diagnostic Laboratory diagnoses general crop health, cultures fungal and bacterial pathogens, tests for viruses, analyzes nematodes, and detects and identifies insect pests. In many cases, the lab recommends mitigation or crop improvement strategies, which are sent to growers via e-mail. At the end of the growing season, results of the lab’s diagnoses of wheat queries were compiled into data reviewed by Dr. Jan Byrne for any trends or possible new disease or pest issues. Dr. Byrne found some traditional challenges, but also found some new disease issues that farmers need to be prepared for including bacterial mosaic and tan spot. Stimulating wheat productivity with oilseed radish Year: 2012-2013 Investigators: Dale Mutch & Dean Baas Budget: $6,000 (2012) $7,500 (2013) Dale Mutch and Dean Baas set out in 2012 to prove whether or not oilseed radish (OSR) enhances wheat yields when the two crops are planted simultaneously. Anecdotal farmer stories indicated that it does, but no true scientific trials had proven it on the same field. Researchers selected wheat farms in Bay City, Ravenna and Centreville on which to run side-by-side plots of wheat interseeded with OSR and wheat not interseeded. At harvest, researchers weighed stalks and biomass, and found that on all three farms the OSR interseeded with wheat trials increased wheat yield. On average across the three farms, OSR-wheat increased yields 3.6 bushels per acre, with head mass increasing nearly 3 percent. Although one of the farms had a decreased head mass result, the overall average was still 3 percent. OSR was planted at 3 pounds per acre. The yield increase was most pronounced the earlier the planting date. The additional cost to include OSR in 2012 was $8.60 per acre, and assuming a wheat price of $6.60 per bushel the addition of OSR increased net income by $15.16 per acre. In 2013, the experiment has been expanded to five locations across Michigan adding the MSU W.K. Kellogg Biological Station and a farm in Monroe County. This year’s projects will focus on determining the best OSR seeding rate (1, 3 or 3.5 lbs. per acre) and the impact of growing conditions on the consistency of the results. These trials were planted in the fall of 2013.

“We believe the data generated from the diagnostic lab will help the board evaluate future research projects, or guide us to seek out new projects to deal with emerging issues,” said MWP chairman Dave Milligan. “The board felt that by monitoring the health and welfare of the crop, we would be able to advance future crops even more.” For its part, the lab will pro-actively seek 15 samples for early-season viral testing, and another 10 samples for viral testing after the wheat heading phase. MSU Extension wheat specialist Martin Nagelkirk will also facilitate collection of these samples and assist in the development of messaging and information for growers to make sure they are prepared for the coming year. The board voted to continue its funding in 2014. Growers who have an undiagnosed problem with their crop this coming spring and summer should visit and click on the Diagnostic Services Submittal Form. MWP supports MAEAP verification for environmental, marketing benefits Helping growers take on the voluntary Michigan Ag Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) was an early goal of the Michigan Wheat Program. MAEAP is a proactive way for farmers to assure neighbors and communities that their farms are engaged in good environmental practices. MAEAP verifications have been ongoing since 2002 and in 2011 became part of Michigan law, as the first legislation signed by Gov. Rick Snyder. To encourage wheat farmers to become MAEAP-verified, the MWP board has voted to pay a one-time $50 incentive to each wheat farmer who completes the three-phase process. “The Wheat Program Board is supporting MAEAP because we thought it was very important that we jump on board with other commodity organizations to show our support,” said Dean Kantola, MWP board member and a MAEAP-verified farmer himself. “MAEAP verification is a visible sign of wheat farmers’ longstanding commitment to environmentallyresponsible agriculture,” Kantola said. The requirements of MAEAP are the result of a collaborative, years-long effort of farmers, MDARD, Michigan Farm Bureau, commodity organizations, conservation districts, conservation groups, and state and federal agencies. About 1,600 Michigan farms have earned the MAEAP seal. Another MAEAP-verified wheat farm is that of MWP board member Carl Sparks of Cassopolis. “The public is very concerned about managing manure – and we are, too. We wanted to do everything right, so that was a big incentive to get involved in MAEAP,” said Sparks, who also grazes dairy cattle. “Everyone who raises wheat raises something else,” Sparks said. “We want to do our part to strengthen agriculture, and the Wheat Program board believes that MAEAP is a good way to govern ourselves as farmers.” Both Sparks and Kantola believe verification was well worth the time invested. MAEAP assists farmers in making environmentally-sustainable business decisions while allowing them to work with MDARD MAEAP verifiers about possible fixes for any issues or potential future issues on their farms, which is increasingly difficult given changing regulations. While the MAEAP process is free, MWP board members recognize that it may be time-consuming for many farmers. As a result, the board agreed to offer the one-time $50 financial award for documented wheat farmers (one award per farmer, not per farm) who are currently growing wheat and obtaining their first verification in MAEAP.

Wheat Market Development

Michigan wheat has market advantages: Will we grow more of it? One of the unique features of the Michigan Wheat Program has been the strong guidance of the industry by visionary farmers, millers and end-users of Michigan wheat. One thing that all of them see is that Michigan-grown soft white and red winter wheat have some key market advantages. Eastern wheat preferred There’s no question that Michigan wheat has a strong foothold in the domestic market. One of the reasons Michigan wheat is well-positioned in the marketplace is because Eastern-grown soft winter wheat has a distinctive profile and is preferred in recipes used by many manufacturers of cereal, cakes, cookies and crackers. Wheat grown in the Northwestern US is not a simple substitute in manufacturers’ recipes. Additionally, most manufacturers don’t like to change suppliers and introduce variability into a finished consumer good. Consistent supply is very important. Proximity to market A second strength for Michigan wheat is proximity to market. Even if their recipes could tolerate substitutions, Michigan manufacturers would rather not incur the higher costs associated with shipping Western wheat here to be processed, especially given all the processors in our state. And Michigan happens to be home to some very heavy-hitters – major processors who turn the state’s wheat crop into well-known consumer brands. Processors with a strong presence in the state include: Kellogg Company • Kraft Foods • General Mills • Chelsea Milling • Jiffy • Mondelez International • Nabisco • Star of the West • Knappen Milling • King Milling • Mennel Milling Decreasing acreage elsewhere Michigan soft winter wheat production is up modestly and has remained relatively stable. Other Eastern wheat-producing regions including Ontario and New York, have decreased their acreage of white wheat, as has Michigan. This shift from white wheat to red wheat is something the market will watch.

Must make dollars and sense From the growers’ perspective, the market can be as strong as Hercules, but if wheat isn’t profitable for a farmer he won’t plant it. One of the key goals of the MWP is to increase productivity and profitability for wheat growers through scientific discovery. Research has been funded to determine how farm productivity may be enhanced by including wheat in a rotation, including second-crop soybeans after wheat harvest and interseeding soybeans into wheat. A significant frontier for research is high-management of wheat. Can the right levels of fungicide, herbicides, nitrogen and fertilizer in the correct formulation at the proper time, and possibly irrigation increase yields? Will those increases more than offset increased input costs and provide the best return on the land for the farmer? And from the millers’ perspective, advances in Michigan’s wheat crop must include fewer quality issues and the maintenance of a strong, reliable supply that is of high quality and has good milling and baking properties. Both ends of this supply chain – grower and end-user – have unique concerns that have come together in shared support for the Michigan Wheat Program. These concerns are the opportunities that form the bull’s eye for the projects and priorities of the Michigan Wheat Program. MWP is the basis for a strong, growing partnership.

Growers Must be Covered Another issue of importance to growers is the lack of appropriate coverage of losses through crop insurance. The MWP has been working with state partners to share information with the Risk Management Agency, as to the shortfalls of crop insurance and coverage of losses due to sprout and falling numbers. Changes were made to the program by RMA to fill that gap, but those changes are not enough, so the MWP is still pursuing additional, more aggressive changes.

communication & Education

Creating tailored learning opportunities for wheat growers Education and communications are one of the main program areas that commodity organizations like the MWP are allowed to engage in, under Michigan’s Public Act 232, the enabling legislation for most commodity check-offs. Education and communications are important for growers, but also for consumers. MWP has used check-off funds to support unique wheat education programs that growers weren’t previously receiving from private industry or universities. As research results become available, the MWP will be providing that information back to growers and sharing the recommendations resulting from the research. MWP is also beginning to develop consumer messages that build the profile of Michigan wheat farmers and the state’s wheat industry, as well as creating messaging on healthy diets and consumption of wheat products.

ESTABLISH A PRESENCE & IDENTITY Early work to establish the organization was spent in the development of a logo to encapsulate the strong, tradition of wheat production and the long history of wheat in civilization. Even though the MWP is looking for cutting-edge advances in production, it is still an industry with a long tradition of supplying markets in and out of state and across the US and world. In fact, as growers know wheat is one of the crops without advancement through biotechnology utilizing traditional breeding instead.

Michigan Wheat Program

As time drew near for assessment collection, elevators, millers and first purchasers across the state were visited and assessment information was left behind after explanation about the program and its goals. It was a good opportunity to leave behind some wheat products (pretzels), establish some relationships and answer questions.

GROWER EDUCATION PROGRAMS While this MWP-sponsored “college” didn’t offer 2- or 4-year degrees, it did provide advanced wheat education sessions for farmers wanting to take their wheat production to the next level. Held in June 2013, MWP brought the well-known Farm Journal Wheat College to Michigan for the first time to an audience of about 130. The Farm Journal colleges attract hundreds of producers in the nation’s heartland. Wheat sessions in Michigan included: • plant health • stand evaluation • nitrogen timing • yield • combine preparation • a preview of possible new varieties Also in keeping up with educational opportunities, MWP board members and staff attended meetings and plot tours across the state. Someone is always available to share the latest information. Call if you have interest.

Annual meeting offers winter education options March 6, 2013, was the date for MWP’s first annual winter grower meeting, and it proved to be education on steroids for more than 200 attendees interested in learning more about wheat production in Michigan. In a day-long session just outside Lansing, wheat growers had the opportunity to learn about intensive-management wheat systems from Dr. David Hooker of the University of Guelph-Ridgetown, Ontario. Other topics discussed included cover crops, how wheat benefits crop rotation, the national wheat scene, a check-off update, a grower panel on how to achieve higher yields, an overview of the milling industry and update from the Dean of the MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Informing growers about MWP Jody Pollok-Newsom and MWP board members represented the organization at a variety of farm venues during 2012 and 2013. The Michigan Wheat Program first developed a trade show booth and a brochure which were used at grower meetings, industry meetings and winter events. MWP representatives spoke at regional meetings, the Growing Michigan Agriculture Conference, the Michigan Millers Association meetings, the Michigan AgriBusiness Association Winter Conference and several other venues. MWP also partnered with organizations like the Michigan Crop Improvement Association to have a presence at Ag Expo. In addition, executive director Jody Pollok-Newsom has written frequent columns and articles about the program’s accomplishments and priorities for Michigan Farmer, Farmers Advance, Michigan Farm News and other trade publications. Several press releases have also been issued to print, radio and television media regarding the importance of the crop, upcoming meetings, research and other pertinent information. Pollok-Newsom has talked about wheat on WJR Radio in Detroit for the Greening of the Great Lakes program, Michigan Business Network internet radio program and on numerous occasions for Michigan Farm Radio Network. Wheat-focused television shows have aired on the Michigan Farm & Garden Show, which is a weekly TV show airing on seven Michigan stations. Three separate shows have been developed that highlight production, research, milling, final products, markets and nutrition. The articles, radio and TV shows have generated thousands of grower impressions about the new Michigan Wheat Program.

CONSUMER EDUCATION Wheat is the newest consumer diet taboo, according to some sources. Many women’s magazines contain interviews with celebrities who’ve gone “gluten-free” and “feel so much better.” Likely, these same celebs gave up red meat, white sugar and corn syrup and followed the Atkins, South Beach and cabbage soup diets in previous years. While the gluten-free fad is unlikely to take hold with the average American, gluten-free products have become a $4.2 billion business for US grocery stores in 2012. Most stores have established a gluten-free product section – despite the fact that only approximately 0.5 percent of Americans have celiac disease and a gluten intolerance. Wheat growers nationwide believe in the healthfulness of wheat and all its by-products, as an important part of a daily diet for thousands of years in all cultures. Wheat is a very important part of a balanced diet. MWP must tell the story of wheat production, its importance to Michigan’s economy and defend its healthfulness for the vast majority of consumers. The organization took its first step in that direction during 2012-2013 by becoming members with several other commodity organizations of the Mi Ag Council and pursuing the Pure Michigan, Pure Michigan Agriculture and Pure Michigan Farmer programs. That work will continue in the years to come.

McDonald’s kids’ fun booklet MWP was a funding partner for the Travel through Michigan Activity Book in 2012 and 2013. The “Wheat Fill-In” word game lets kids discover tasty products they like to eat that are made with wheat. About 500,000 of the books were distributed in McDonald’s Restaurants throughout Michigan in spring 2012 and spring 2013, raising the industry’s profile among next-generation consumers. MWP will continue to work through the Michigan Festivals & Events Association and with other commodity partners as these unique, partnership opportunities arise. Michigan Wheat’s state-of-the-art website focuses on content for Michigan wheat growers including variety trial results, research information and links to partner organizations. The website also provides check-off information to industry, so they are able to find all of the information they need in one place. The site’s home page lets growers sign up to receive information and communications. Being that the check-off is a new organization and on a limited budget, many publications and events will be advertised mostly via email. Make sure you’re signed up! Then bookmark the website on your Internet browser and visit monthly to see what’s new. The website for MWP,, also provides a location for wheat farmers to sign up for a periodic e-newsletter. Learn more, stay in touch and visit often.

The Michigan Wheat Program thanks you for your support! We hope you’re pleased with all that we have accomplished! Contact us with any questions or to have us speak at your events at 1-888-WHEAT01. And visit us often at

Michigan Wheat Program

Mi wheat program final annual report  

Annual report for the Michigan Wheat Program.

Mi wheat program final annual report  

Annual report for the Michigan Wheat Program.