Prairie Grains April-May 2024

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Brian Sorenson Takes Helm at MN Wheat Reid Christopherson Retiring Wheat Yield Contest 2024 Details Minnesota Wheat, 2600 Wheat Drive, Red Lake Falls, MN 56750 Read More Building Opportunities by Association Issue 200 April-May 2024 PRAIRIE GRAINS CELEBRATES 200 ISSUES IN THE FIELD
ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW PESTICIDE LABEL DIRECTIONS. The distribution, sale, or use of an unregistered pesticide is a violation of federal and/or state law and is strictly prohibited. Check with your local dealer or representative for the product registration status in your state. Bayer, Bayer Cross, and Vios FX are trademarks of Bayer Group. For additional product information, call toll-free 1-866-99-BAYER (1-866-992-2937) or visit our website at Bayer CropScience LP, 800 North Lindbergh Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63167. ©2024 Bayer Group. All rights reserved.


Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers

2600 Wheat Drive • Red Lake Falls, MN 56750


• Email:



Drew Lyon, Ag Management Solutions

1020 Innovation Lane • Mankato, MN 56001

Ph: 507.388.1635



Sydney Harris, Ag Management Solutions

Ph: 218.689.5091


Katelyn Engquist, Ag Management Solutions

Ph: 507.508.1540



Kaelyn Rahe, Ag Management Solutions

Ph: 507.388.1635


Alex Troska, Ag Management Solutions

Ph: 952.334.2539



Erin Rossow, Ag Management Solutions

1020 Innovation Lane • Mankato, MN 56001

Ph: 507.902.9191



Prairie Grains magazine is published

For more than 40 years across three different publications, Minnesota Wheat has helped bring timely information to growers across the Northern Plains. This spring, Prairie Grains celebrates its 200th issue of covering the region. Read all about it! Story on page 16.

six times annually and delivered free of charge to members of these grower associations, and to spring wheat and barley producers in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana. To subscribe or change address, please write or call our circulation department. OUR PARTNERS Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers and Minnesota Wheat Research & Promotion Council 2600 Wheat Drive • Red Lake Falls, MN 56750 218.253.4311 • Email: Web: North Dakota Grain Growers Association 2401 46th Ave SE , Suite 204 • Mandan, ND 58554 701.222.2216 • Email: Web: South Dakota Wheat Growers Association 116 N. Euclid, Box 667 • Pierre, SD 58501 605.224.4418 • Email: Montana Grain Growers Association P.O. Box 1165 • Great Falls, MT 59403 • 406.761.4596 Email: • Web: Northland Community and Technical College 1101 Highway One East • Thief River Falls, MN 56701 218.683.8800 Email: Web: Against the Grain: A time to celebrate Taming the Bulls & Bears: Back to the Basics Prairie Grains Prairie Grains April-May 2024 |
200 5 Representing for research: Wheat advocates make case for research funding in D.C. 12 Reid Remembers: Outgoing SD Wheat Commission Executive Director looks back on service 26 Teaming up: MAWG directors join
in St. Paul to promote, protect farming
need to know 24
8 Spring
101: What growers

We’re Growing

There are plenty of reasons for optimism, and much to celebrate, this spring here in Minnesota and throughout the Prairie Grains region.

In April, our organization proudly welcomed Brian Sorenson into the fold as our new executive director. As you’ll read later in this issue, Brian, who previously worked at the Northern Crops Institute on the campus of North Dakota State University, arrives at Minnesota Wheat with a firm grasp of our crop and the wheat industry. He’s hit the ground running: Brian already met with both our boards and visited with national wheat leaders during a meeting in Fargo.

Brian’s seamless transition to the executive director position was made possible thanks to the leadership and dedication of our Vice President of Operations, Coreen Berdahl, who was instrumental in keeping us moving in the right direction for several months during a period of staffing transition. This also occurred while we held multiple events, including our annual Prairie Grains Conference and Small Grains Update, which are no small undertaking. She’s been the glue throughout this entire process and helped ensure we didn’t miss a beat. We thank Coreen for her

ongoing service to Minnesota Wheat and look forward to her and Brian continuing to move our organization in the right direction.

This magazine you hold in your hands, or perhaps are scanning on your phone, has certainly moved in a positive direction. We must be doing something right to publish 200 issues of the Prairie Grains magazine. What an achievement for everyone affiliated with this publication over the past 30 years. I count myself as a longtime reader and have been amazed at the quality of articles published in these pages over the years. We are all standing on the shoulders of giants, and that’s certainly the case with this magazine.

farm (of course, they do; we all eat, right?). We need to educate them on how we raise our crops and protect the environment.

This year’s St. Paul Bus Trip was a total team effort and I thank all our officers, volunteers and staff who joined us this year. There was one notable absence, however. My colleague, past MAWG President Mike Gunderson, was unable to attend this year, but for good reason. Mike was advocating in Washington, D.C., that same week on behalf of the National Wheat Improvement Committee.

As the unofficial start to spring, grower leaders from across the state hopped on the bus to St. Paul for our annual legislative visits. These meetings are so important to our mission. With fewer and fewer rural representatives at the Capitol, it’s critical that we meet in person with those legislators who don’t believe they have direct connections to the

By the time this issue lands, many of us will be out in the field planting this year’s crop. All signs point to an earlier spring, and I hope that still holds true by the time this issue lands in your mailbox. Be safe out there, friends, and have a fantastic 2024 growing season!

Whether you’re a reader, advertiser or grower, thank you for supporting the Prairie Grains magazine for 200 issues! This is a milestone worth celebrating.

Kevin Leiser farms in Fertile, Minn., and serves as president of the Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers.

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Back to the Basics

I taught an intro to commodity marketing class this spring. I pretended it was for farmers, but it was really for me. I needed to go back to the basics. It is dangerous to believe I understand the markets and where they are going. I needed a slap back to reality. I do not understand the markets and have no idea where they are headed.

I wavered back and forth this year on buying SCO crop insurance. It was an easier decision in 2023 when our wheat crop insurance price guarantee was $2 higher than this year. Can prices really drop that much farther? Is there really a downside price risk?

I decided against SCO this year and signed up for ARC. When I was reviewing historical crop insurance guarantees, I was surprised to see that in the past 10 years, five of those years had spring price elections under $6. I am disappointed by our $6.84 spring wheat crop insurance price election. Where’s the $8 and $9 wheat? Compared to the past decade, $6.84 looks pretty darn good.

My biggest struggle with crop marketing is recency bias. I believe what happened last year, or the year before, will happen again. There’s no way wheat can go back to $5 because it should be worth $8, maybe even $9 or higher.

That is what we have seen since 2021. That is normal.

I forget about 2014-2020 when wheat traded with a $5 in front. Of course, there were ups and downs, but we would have been thrilled with $6.84. Our 2024 crop insurance price is historically above average. It seems disappointing compared to the past three years but widen your view to 10 years and it looks good.

I know things have changed in the past 10 years. Our farm management data shows total wheat costs in 2014 of $331. In 2023, that number jumped to $516. The biggest jumps were fertilizer, repairs and land rent. Other expenses also crept higher. I understand we need higher wheat prices to be profitable, but we don’t always get what we need. I am certain that many remember selling crops for less than your cost of production.

When you get overwhelmed and frustrated with crop marketing, take a step back, widen your view and start with the basics. Do a little forward contracting in the spring. Spread your price risk amongst multiple time periods. We can even do some contracting for 2025. As I write this, there are four contracts of open interest in September 2025 spring wheat. The

December futures are available to trade, but no one has done so yet. The market has a nice carrying charge so if you want $7 wheat, it’s there, but not until 2025.

Here are two questions you need to answer as you consider your 2024 and 2025 marketing plan. What’s the worst price I will accept? This should be your first sale. Hopefully the market continues to go higher, and the rest of your wheat is sold at much higher prices.

What is your lightning-strike-medead price? You set the price where you throw open the bin doors, fire up the truck and haul with a smile on your face. If you have the worst and best price determined, fill in the rest of the plan. Your lightning price should be high and likely unattainable with a significant world event. Your first price should be disappointing. You had to settle and hope there are better prices ahead.

Stick with the basics. Look at charts, read a marketing newsletter, place orders and focus on risk management. Storing 2023 wheat in my bin did not work well, but I had enough contracted to spread my risk. Prices are low, expenses are high and risk management is what will help you survive the tight profit years.

April-May 2024 Prairie Grains Page 5
Betsy Jensen is a Farm Business Management Instructor at Northland Community and Technical College. Follow her on Twitter at @jensenbetsyr.

Brian Sorenson arrives at Minnesota Wheat with passion, experience

Brian Sorenson has spent his whole life around wheat. His family farm raised wheat. He studied it in college. He processed it and showed buyers from around the world the high quality of wheat grown in the Northern Plains.

And now, after devoting chunks of his career to the wheat industry, he’s overseeing the organizations that promote wheat through and through.

In March 2024, Sorenson was hired as the new executive director for the Minnesota Wheat Research & Promotion Council (MWRPC) and Minnesota Association


Wheat Growers

(MAWG). On his first day as executive director, Sorenson attended his first MWRPC meeting.

“Growing up on a farm in Fisher, Minnesota, in the heart of the hard red spring wheat region, this is a great opportunity to be a part of that,” said Sorenson. “It was a really important part of my upbringing, and I’ve been involved with wheat from both a research and promotion perspective really my whole career.”

Sorenson, who earned a master’s degree in cereal chemistry from North Dakota State University, has worked in the grain milling industry for 18 years, and has spent

The Life of Brian

Brian and his wife, Catherine, have three adult children and two grandkids. The couple currently resides on the family farm near Fisher in Polk County. In his spare time, Brian enjoys woodworking and spending time in the outdoors.

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Brian Sorenson (middle) will work in tandem with MAWG President Kevin Leiser (right) and MWRPC Chair Tim Dufault to advance Minnesota Wheat’s priorities.
I am looking forward to working with the wheat producers and to the challenges that lie ahead and finding out where I can help the most. I’m eager to get started.

more than 15 years working for the Northern Crops Institute (NCI) out of Fargo, N.D., in various capacities. He worked there as technical director and processed wheat and other grains into different food products for companies to add value to the crops. He also served as a director, overseeing all aspects of NCI’s educational and technical programs. Most recently, since 2018 he was positioned as NCI Program Manager, providing education for both domestic and international buyers, and served as a liaison for ag organizations and commodity groups.

“Through my time at NCI, I was able to help people understand how to get the most value out of the crops that they buy,” Sorenson said, “and I believe that experience will help me in my next chapter with Minnesota Wheat.”

When the search for Minnesota Wheat’s executive director began in late 2023, Sorenson’s background and knowledge made him an excellent candidate to fill the vacancy.

“We’re thrilled to have Brian join our team,” MWRPC Chair Tim Dufault said. “His background and passion for agriculture make him a perfect fit for the goals of Minnesota Wheat and Minnesota wheat producers.”

MAWG President Kevin Leiser shares Dufault’s optimistic outlook for the organization’s new direction.

“We’re excited to begin working with Brian,” Leiser said. “He has a lot of great attributes. We’re going to have a really, really good thing going forward.”

No additives required

Sorenson began his chapter with Minnesota Wheat in early April. In the months ahead, he hopes to get to know the boards of MAWG and MWRPC

better and assist them in determining their agendas and achieving policy and wheat checkoff-related goals on the path toward increasing wheat’s presence in the marketplace.

“We’ve got a great board on both sides, and each have their own ideas,” Sorenson said, “but they also have the ultimate goal of making wheat be a crop that competes financially with the other crops that are available to producers.”

Sorenson added that wheat is a unique crop as far as quality and functionality, and that quality is what the consumers are ultimately looking for these days. Thankfully, Minnesota is an all-star when it comes to growing high-quality wheat.

“The hard red spring wheat that we grow in Minnesota is really some of the best wheat in the world, and one of the best ways we can help these bakers and millers is to make sure

they understand why that quality matters,” said Sorenson. “In this day and age of clean labels, consumers want to look at a label and not see a lot of additives. The hard red spring wheat we produce doesn’t require those additives. We want to make sure those buyers and processors see the value of buying our wheat.”

While Minnesota may be known for growing some of the best hard red spring wheat, many challenges persist: unstable markets, disease and competition from other crops, to name a few obstacles. But Sorenson is rolling up his sleeves, embracing the challenge and sees myriad opportunities in his new role.

Let’s get to work.

“I am looking forward to working with the wheat producers and to take on the challenges that lie ahead and finding out where I can help the most,” he said. “I’m eager to get started.”

April-May 2024 Prairie Grains Page 7
MWRPC directors welcome Brian Sorenson to his first board meeting in April 2024. - MN Wheat Executive Director Brian Sorenson

Teaming Up

MAWG directors join together in St. Paul to promote, protect farming

The Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers (MAWG) spent National Agriculture Day doing what it does best –advocating for Minnesota wheat growers in St. Paul.

“Most of the people that are making our laws have never seen or been on a farm,” MAWG President Kevin Leiser said. “If we don’t tell our story, all they have to go off of is what they see on social media or other sources. How can somebody that knows nothing about what we do tell us what to do?”

Wheat growers were well represented at the Capital on March 19 for MAWG’s annual St. Paul Bus Trip, which is held in conjunction with Minnesota Farm Bureau’s Hill Visits, as MAWG divided and conquered, attending several legislative appointments.

A nonpartisan organization, the MAWG delegation highlighted its 2024 legislative priorities during meetings

with legislators on both sides of the aisle. A priority at the forefront of discussions was the proposed fertilizer fee increase, which would be used to make annual aid payments to community health boards in the eight counties located in the karst region in southeast Minnesota. Those boards would then distribute the funds to private well owners whose wells contain nitrogen in excess of 10 milligrams per liter.

“We don’t think it’s fair that the entire state has to pay for a problem that is localized to a specific region,” Leiser said during a meeting with Sen. Gene Dornink, who sits on the Senate Ag Committee. “It’s not right that they’re trying to push another tax.”

Under the proposed bill – HF-4135 and SF-4311 – nitrogen fertilizer includes anhydrous ammonia, di-ammonium

Page 8 Prairie Grains • April-May 2024

phosphate (DAP), liquid 28, monoammonium phosphate and urea. The inspection fee would remain at 44 cents per ton until June 30, 2025, at which point it would increase to 70 cents per ton. For sales between July 1, 2023, and June 30, 2025, a 99-cent per ton fee would be assessed; after June 30, 2025, the fee on nitrogen fertilizer would increase to $1.39 per ton.

“We don’t love the way it’s structured,” said Tate Petry, MAWG secretary/treasurer. “Our farming practices are different from northern to southern Minnesota, so we’d like to see that bill possibly amended or changed in a way that doesn’t reallocate funds from northern Minnesota to down south.”

Having a conversation

Another important priority addressed at the Capitol was HF-2354 and SF-2679, which was introduced to establish a drainage registry portal. The bill would require that “the executive director of the Board of Water and Soil Resources must establish and permanently maintain a drainage registry information portal that includes a publicly searchable electronic database.”

“We already go through the necessary hoops with our local watersheds, which oversee drainage projects,” MAWG First Vice President Austen Germolus said. “Why implement policy that affects the whole state when they could create watersheds for the areas without and remedy the

problem? Their proposed solutions for the problems aren’t solutions, they’re Band-Aids.”

Last legislative session, a bill requiring that all employers in the state provide employees up to 24 weeks of paid family or medical leave was passed. The bill qualifies employees for up to 12 weeks of paid leave to care for a family member, along with 12 weeks of medical leave if they themselves get sick which can be stacked for 20 consecutive weeks.

“Farming is a totally different animal than any other job,” Leiser said. “We would love to see an agricultural or seasonal exemption to this law because it’s a bookkeeping nightmare, since these employees are only with us for two to three months out of the year during harvest.”

To pay for the program, the bill provides $1.7 billion of one-time state funding, after which it would be sustained by a 0.7 percent premium on wages that would be funneled into a family and medical benefit insurance account beginning in 2025. According to estimates, an employee earning $50,000 yearly would contribute about three dollars per week, as would the employer. The program will be a roughly $1 billion tax increase annually on businesses.

In total, the MAWG delegation visited with over 25 legislators, creating ample opportunities to spread the story of agriculture.

“While I can’t speak for others, the meetings that I was in with legislators went well,” Leiser said. “They listened to us and there were discussions back and forth, which is all we ask for – for them to have a conversation with us.”

The 2024 legislative session must end by May 20.

April-May 2024 Prairie Grains Page 9

Longtime advocate makes way for next generation

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It might be easier to ask Elbow Lake, Minn., farmer Scott Swenson to name a wheat board or committee he hasn’t served on, rather than listing the organization’s he’s represented. The list is long: At both the state and national levels, he’s run the gamut supporting wheat research, new markets and policy over the past quarter-century.

But this June, he’s stepping down from his most recent venture on the Minnesota Wheat Research & Promotion Council (MWRPC) board to let the next generation of wheat growers have their say in the future of wheat.

“I’ve been around a long time, it’s getting difficult for me to travel, and I think it’s time for some younger faces on the Council,” said Swenson. “No one wants to be the old guy in the room.”

Swenson is stepping away from MWRPC after nine years of leadership. Prior to that, he also served 11 years on the Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers (MAWG). During that time, he also juggled appointments to the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG), National Wheat Foundation (NWF), National Wheat Improvement Committee and U.S. Wheat Associates (USW).

One of Swenson’s recent highlights comes from his time serving on NWF, which was established by the industry to serve as the national center for wheat research, education and outreach. During his term, he helped oversee the sale of NWF’s former office building near the Capitol in Washington, D.C., and the subsequent reinvestment of the funds from that sale, which benefited NWF and its parties.

“We invested the money in 2020, which was a pretty good time for investing, and we saw some significant returns,” Swenson said. “We use that investment to help

support NAWG.”

Tim Dufault, current MWRPC chair, has known Swenson for about 30 years, since they first met at one of MAWG’s first golf fundraisers.

“Scott has always been very thoughtful and pragmatic with his decisions,” Dufault said. “He’s always concerned about the wheat grower and making wheat better for Minnesota. He’s always been willing to do whatever it takes.”

A dependable leader

Swenson also found his voice on the national level through USW, which focuses heavily on developing, maintaining and expanding international markets to increase profitability for U.S. wheat producers. While on the USW Board of Directors, Scott had the opportunity to travel internationally to China and Taiwan on a trade mission in 2017.

“I really enjoyed my time on the USW board, thanks in part to their staff. They are great to work with and they make things easy for the board,” said Swenson. “Their slogan, ‘Dependable People. Reliable Wheat,’ credits their staff for being both dependable and reliable in supporting U.S. wheat.”

While serving on NAWG, Swenson sat on a subcommittee that advocated heavily on behalf of biotech in the wheat seed industry.

“There was a lot of work being done on Roundup Ready wheat, which was new at the time and maybe scary to consumers, so ultimately it got shelved. It just wasn’t the right time,” said Swenson. “But we kept having conversations with the seed companies and told them not to give up. Now we’re seeing some breakthroughs with gene-editing, which is similar but not the same as biotech wheat, but there is still a future there.”

Overall, Swenson is most pleased with the progress that the wheat

industry has made at both the state and national level, even though it doesn’t always occur quickly.

“Our yields used to be all over the place,” he said. “Now we’ve seen steady and consistent increases to our bushels, thanks to the practices we’ve implemented through the research we supported.”

Preaching patience

The future of MWRPC will be in good hands, according to Swenson, whose MWRPC term ends in June. His replacement will be Glenn Hjelle, a fellow farmer just down the road from Swenson.

“He’s been involved in research through Minnesota Wheat’s OnFarm Research Network,” Swenson said. “He’s very excited and will be a great fit on the Council.”

His advice for Hjelle and all future board members is to not get discouraged when the research doesn’t show the results you wanted. Patience is key.

“Even if it’s not the data you were hoping, that’s still valid research. That’s why we do research, is to answer those questions,” said Swenson. “And you have to keep investing. It’s slow work sometimes, but it’ll pay off in the end.”

Swenson is hopeful for the future and looking to the next generation to hold down the fort. A spinal injury that he sustained in 2019 has slowed him down and prevented him from being able to do some of the heavy lifting and climbing that comes with life on the farm. The youngest of Swenson’s three sons plans to return home and begin taking over the farm over the next couple of years.

It’s been a good run for Scott Swenson. Now, he said, it’s time to pass the baton.

“In both farming and in these organizations, we need young people to step up and get involved,” he said. “They are the future.”

April-May 2024 Prairie Grains Page 11

Spring planting tips & tricks

Wheat researchers say the 5 Cs’ are keys to success in 2024

“I’m most looking forward to the chance for at least an average, if not earlier than average, planting date.”
- UMN Spring Wheat Breeder Jim Anderson

warm temperatures and minimal snowfall, resulting in an earlier spring compared to the last few years. Every year, Jim Anderson, a professor in the department of agronomy and plant genetics at the University of Minnesota, grows a variety trial with public and private varieties. This year, a record 53 varieties will be in the trial. Anderson, like many growers, is cautiously optimistic that the wheat crop is going to thrive this year.

“I’m most looking forward to the chance for at least an average, if not earlier than average, planting date,” Anderson said. “Wheat does better when you get it in earlier and it goes through most of its growth cycle during a cooler period of summer.”

The 5 C’s

Soon, the countryside will be dotted with planters. University of Minnesota Extension Small Grains Specialist Jochum Wiersma highlighted 5 C’s for growers to keep in the back of their minds as they progress through the 2024 season.

Not many events put a pep in farmers’ steps quite like planting season and the optimism that comes with a new growing season. This spring, as farmers fire up their tractors with a twinkle in their eye, experts from the University of Minnesota are keen to share a few tips and tricks for wheat growers across the region.

Wait, an early spring, you say?

Mother Nature threw everyone for a loop this winter with unseasonably

1. Calculate your seeding rate

It may be tempting to jump in the planter and go, but Wiersma stresses the importance of calculating seeding rate before making that first pass. Determining the desired plant population, which differs between varieties and depends on how early or late it’s planted, plays a role in seeding rate, as well as the number of seeds per pound or 1,000 kernel weight.

“Be mindful of your seeding rate as the season goes on,” Anderson said. “You can get by with a lower plant population with earlier planting, but

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as the season progresses further into May, you might want to up that seeding rate a little bit.”

It’s also important to know the germination rate and to estimate what stand loss is going to be to calculate an efficient seeding rate.

“Every single farmer has a little bit of a different set up,” Wiersma said. “You adjust for those numbers, put them in the little formula and poof there it is.”

2. Calibrate your drill accordingly

Small grains drills measure volume, so growers need to make sure their equipment is properly calibrated to ensure that the recommended weight of seed is distributed per unit area.

“You need to go back to, ‘OK, I need to put this much volume of grain over this area,’” Wiersma said. “Unless you have a vacuum planter, where it’s a count, you’re measuring volume again.”

3. Consider a seed treatment

In humans, preventative care can stop diseases. The same can be said for preventative care – in the form of seed treatments – in farming. Wiersma encourages growers to consider seed treatments depending on their growing history.

“In a way, seed treatments are a form of insurance,” Wiersma said. “Consider a seed treatment if you have scabby seed, had loose smut in the field that you kept for seed or have a history of common root rot/ Fusarium crown rot in the field with a two-year rotation of wheat and soybeans to reduce seedling damping off.”

4. Check your seeding depth

Seeding depth is a critical factor when planting. Ideally, wheat should be planted about an inch and a half deep, though seed placement will vary from field to field, making it important to continually check the seeding depth.

“You’re balancing access to moisture and rapid emergence,” Wiersma said. “If you plant too shallow, the little seedling can dry out before it has its roots in water. And, if you plant it too deep, the poor seedling has to dig out of a proverbial six-foot hole.”

5. Check your work

When it’s all said and done, it doesn’t hurt to go back and check what’s been done. For example, Wiersma suggests doing a stand count at the two-to-three leaf stage.

“You calculated out your goals, you took steps to ensure that you can reach that goal and now it is time to check your work,” Wiersma said.

Along with Wiersma’s 5 C’s, Anderson reminds growers to carefully select varieties.

“I encourage growers to look at all of the quality traits that are important to them,” said Anderson. “If you select varieties on yield alone, you may get something that’s not going to perform very well.”

Many factors play a role in a successful planting and growing season, some of which are uncontrollable. That’s why it’s vital to control the controllable. As planting ramps up, these tips and tricks can help Minnesota wheat growers have a successful 2024 growing season.

“In a way, seed treatments are a form of insurance.”
- UMN Small Grains Specialist Jochum Wiersma
April-May 2024 Prairie Grains Page 13

‘Good people’: MAWQCP’s Area Certification Specialists assist growers

Grant Pearson has helped producers enroll in the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP) since the very beginning. He joined the staff of the Stearns County Soil & Water Conservation District in June 2015, just one month prior to MAWQCP’s statewide roll out, and has served as an MAWQCP Area Certification Specialist (ACS) in westCentral Minnesota ever since.

“Early on, it was a bit of a struggle to get growers certified,” Pearson says, “but now it’s gotten to the point where word has gotten around, and farmers know that we’re on the side of the producer.”

Pearson remembers speaking with growers throughout his district to highlight the program’s benefits. One of those farmers who bought into the program’s mission from the outset was Paul Freeman, who farms in Starbuck and is a director with the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council.

“Paul is so passionate about keeping the soil in place,” Pearson says. “He maximizes his dollars to make sure every dollar he spends on nutrients is utilized. It’s amazing to go out to some of his fields and see how well the soil holds.”

When a producer volunteers to become MAWQCP certified, they’re connected with an ACS who helps guide them through the enrollment stages. The ACS will gather information on the operation and begin an evaluation. In total, MAWQCP supports eight ACS across the state, in addition to a team of certifying agents. Working with Pearson field-by-field led to a smooth, quick enrollment process for Freeman.

“Grant’s a common-sense type of guy. He was very good to work with,” Freeman says. “I encourage farmers to open that door to their (SWCDs) and check it out, because the program quantifies the good things we’re already doing out there.”

The assessment tool the specialists follow usually involves evaluating:

• Physical field characteristics

• Nutrient management factors

• Tillage management factors

• Pest management practices

• Irrigation and tile drainage management

• Conservation practices

Since the voluntary program’s statewide launch, 1,460 producers totaling over 1,040,260 acres have been certified across Minnesota. Farms have added over 2,840 new conservation practices. Those new practices help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 50,000 metric tons each year and have kept nearly 48,000 tons of sediment out of Minnesota rivers while saving 142,000 tons of soil and 59,000 pounds of phosphorous on farms each year. The conservation practices have also reduced nitrogen loss up to 49%.

“We can help identify those best management practices or crop management practices that help stabilize the soil and help keep resources in place,” Pearson says.

Minnesota farmers can contact their local SWCD to apply for MAWQCP certification and then complete a series of steps with local certifiers using a 100% sitespecific risk-assessment process. Specialists can also help farmers apply for financial assistance and MAWQCP’s Climate Smart Project. After becoming certified, farmers receive a 10-year contract ensuring they will be considered in compliance with any new water quality laws, along with an official MAWQCP sign to display on their farm and other benefits.

“The 10 years of regulatory certainty is very popular with the farmers I work with,” Pearson says.

Farmers and landowners interested in becoming water quality certified can contact their local SWCD or visit If you farm in west-central Minnesota, contact Grant Pearson at grant.pearson@ or by calling 320-428-4374.

“We’re all here to tell a positive story about farmers’ efforts to help keep their soil and fertilizer resources on their landscape,” he says. “Farmers and the conservation staff are just plain good people to work with.”

Page 14 Prairie Grains • April-May 2024
Grant Pearson (left) helps enroll farmers like Paul Freeman (right) in the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program.
SELL YOUR EQUIPMENT WITH STEFFES Visit for more information!
Page 16 Prairie Grains • April-May 2024 5 000+ PAGES
April-May 2024 Prairie Grains Page 17
Continued on page

Celebrating 200 issues of Prairie Grains magazine PRAIRIE PRINTS

The evolution of Minnesota Wheat’s publications over the past 40 years mirrors technological advances across the media landscape. The organization thrived by adapting with the times while always staying consistent with its mission to deliver timely information to producers across the Northern Plains.

In the early 1980s, Kris Bergman (née Versdahl) served as managing editor of the Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers’ (MAWG) first publication, which a decade later became Prairie Grains. Bergman, who started out as an executive secretary before transitioning to communications, laughed recalling how the magazine was produced cutand-paste style, using linetype and IMB Memory typewriters. Printing the mailing list alone could take an entire day. And good luck finding stock photos; there were none in those salad days.

“It was an interesting time – so archaic,” Bergman said during a phone interview from her home in Montana. “It was fun to see the magazine grow and change.”

Minnesota Wheat wasn’t behind the times. Far from it. By the mid1980s, the Red Lake Falls, Minn.based organization began using Adobe PageMaker, a desktop publishing computer program that was a precursor to Microsoft Windows. In the early 1990s, thanks to Minnesota Wheat’s partnership with the University of Minnesota, the organization received access to agriculture research via the

underground World Wide Web. Now, in the mid-2020s, Prairie Grains can be read online from our phones, a concept the original editorial team could’ve hardly imagined back in the 1980s.

“We were lucky to be part of (the internet) right from the outset,” Bergman said. “I loved all the technology. It was fascinating. It was kind of gradual; I mean, nobody really understood this whole digital revolution. Now, things happen so fast, and I’m overwhelmed by it.”

Bergman and former Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers (MAWG) Executive Director Dave “Torgy” Torgerson were more amazed than overwhelmed when told that Prairie Grains is celebrating its 200th edition across nearly 30 years of production.

“Has it really been that long?” Torgerson asked.

It has.

Wheat’s wordsmith

Minnesota Wheat’s debut publication was a tabloid-style newsletter, titled simply “Minnesota Wheat.” About 8-10 issues were published each year, averaging about a dozen pages. Editorial coverage focused on wheat checkoff projects, foreign market development efforts and MAWG’s legislative activity. Marv Zutz, executive director of Minnesota Barley, remembered huddling in the office to edit stories in the hours before publication deadline.

“Everybody would help proofread.” Zutz said. “Guys with accounting backgrounds don’t like that stuff, but it was always a team effort.”

Page 18 Prairie Grains • April-May 2024
Former Minnesota Wheat Executive Director Dave Torgerson said of Tracy Sayler’s popular Prairie Ramblings column: “It was funny, a little bit edgy. I think people flipped to that back page first.”


By the end of the 1980s, MAWG’s board realized it was missing an opportunity by not featuring its farming neighbors in North Dakota and South Dakota. Directors decided to create a new glossy magazine, called Spring Wheat.

“Torgy and the board of directors at the time were visionaries for embracing North Dakota and surrounding states by trying to find a way to streamline and work together better,” Bergman said.

Everyone involved in the Spring Wheat/Prairie Grains’ operation agreed that journalist Tracy Sayler was the key ingredient in transforming the magazine

into a respected source of agriculture information during the 1990s and into the 21st century.

“Tracy came up with the name Prairie Grains and he guided that thing,” said Tim Dufault, who also helped sell magazine ads and is current chair of the Minnesota Wheat Research & Promotion Council and past MAWG president. “It was very well done from the beginning.”

When Spring Wheat transitioned to Prairie Grains magazine in the mid1990s, Sayler served as editor and penned a back-page column called “Prairie Ramblings.”

“He was our wordsmith,” Zutz said. “He was one of those guys who loved English.”

Under Sayler’s editorial leadership, the magazine continued focusing on research, international marketing and was crucial in relaying news about the scab breakout.

“Tracy was really good at taking scientific information from wheat researchers and putting it into a story that growers

could read easily,” Torgerson said.

Sayler’s death in 2007 left a huge void at the magazine.

“After Tracy passed, it was hard to keep it going,” Torgerson said. “The magazine is only as good as the writers and designers, and it’s hard. There’s not that many ag communicators around.”

Still, Prairie Grains persevered by using writers and photographers from across the region and tapping into Prairie Ag Communications. In late 2020, MAWG contracted with Ag Management Solutions to help oversee the regional magazine, which now reaches as far west as Montana. In a sign of the times, Prairie Grains’ first issues of 2021 were compiled remotely during the height of the pandemic.

“The content has changed a bit,” said Torgerson, who remains a MAWG member, “but, boy, Prairie Grains is still always fun to read, and I think the coverage of all four states has only improved.”

Bergman credited Prairie Grains readers and Minnesota Wheat’s leadership for reaching the 200-issue milestone.

“The readers have always been engaged and interested,” she said. “And I give kudos to the people who served on the (MAWG) board over those years. It was their amazing leadership that helped Prairie Grains evolve.

Continued on page 20

With direction from the Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers, Prairie Grains published its first issue in March 1996. Twenty-eight years later, the magazine is marking 200 issues in production.

April-May 2024 Prairie Grains Page 19


The Grai n Le ad er Wh ea ts Neat











Page 20 Prairie Grains • April-May 2024 1980 EARLY 1980s EARLY 1990s 1995 2000 2003 1998 1998 1981 1990 1995 2000
Minnesota Wheat




April-May 2024 Prairie Grains Page 21 Prairie Grains Prairie Grains Building Opportunities by Association Virtual value Prairie Grains Conference adapts, delivers high-quality content Issue 179 January 2021 Minnesota Wheat, 2600 Wheat Drive, Red Lake Falls, MN 56750 Building Opportunities by Association Advocacy arm Bill Bestofth e B es D seaseManagement HighYieds S u pp yChains CheckofAdvancem s Advocates Head to the Hill NCI Impact Analysis National Wheat Yield Contest Opens Read More Issue 193 March 2023 2006 2010 2012 2017 2021 2024 2019 2007 2009 2005 2010 2015 2020 AFTER MORE THAN TWO DECADES WORKING IN MINNESOTA WHEAT’S OFFICES, KRIS BERGMAN RETIRES. REFERENDUM PASSES TO INCREASE WHEAT CHECKOFF FROM 1 CENT TO 2 CENTS PER BUSHEL. PRAIRIE GRAINS

As a soil health specialist with the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC), Dan Coffman can share with farmers the personal benefits he’s experienced using cover crops on his own 200-acre farm in Nicollet, Minn.

“With a proven background in soil health, Dan possesses the technical knowledge required to assess and promote soil health,” says Ryan Heiniger, CTIC Executive Director. “However, what sets him apart is his firsthand experience implementing soil health practices on his own farm. This unique perspective allows him to connect with fellow farmers and provide practical guidance and support in adopting sustainable agricultural practices.”

Coffman serves as CTIC’s soil health specialist in Minnesota. In his role, Coffman actively promotes the program and assists farmers in the enrollment process. This program encourages the adoption of cover crops by offering incentives for their use. Since partnering with Farmers for Soil Health, CTIC has engaged with producers by holding webinars and exhibiting at events across Minnesota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

“That’s been a great way for us to get the word out and have some farmer-facing outreach,” Coffman says.

In the past year, CTIC has enrolled nearly 15,000

acres across Minnesota in Farmers for Soil Health. CTIC also supports soil health specialists in South Dakota and Wisconsin in its goal to enroll 500 farms totaling 87,000 acres by 2026. Thanks to additional support from General Mills, CTIC has also hired expert farmers as cover crop coaches to provide mentoring to farmers just beginning their soil health journey.

“The program has been very well received and I think it just goes to show how much of a farmer-friendly program it is,” Coffman says. “It’s made for farmers to be farmer friendly.”

Cover crop benefits

One of the farmers who jumped at the chance to enroll was Appleton, Minn., farmer Ed Hegland. The former president of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association learned about CTIC and FSH through a webinar in early 2024. He then reached out to Coffman, who guided him through the enrollment channels.

“It was a very simple process. Dan came right to my kitchen table,” Hegland says. “I just love programs that are incentive-based. A lot of people don’t fully understand the benefits of cover crops.”

By planting cover crops, Hegland protects his topsoil by improving water filtration. He’s also nearly


Page 22 Prairie Grains • April-May 2024
Enrollment Contact
Soil Health Specialist, CTIC
Dakota Enrollment Contact
Soil Health Specialist, CTIC
Technology Information Center partners with Farmers for Soil Health to promote cover crops, soil health Minnesota

eliminated wind erosion and saved on fuel and labor costs while maintaining yields. In addition, cover crops produce biomass that provides organic matter, supports carbon cycling and improves weed control.

“Ed is a great advocate for agriculture and soil health and cover crops,” Coffman says. “He not only talks the talk, but he’s walking the walk and continues to do that.”

Through CTIC and Farmers for Soil Health, Hegland is set to earn additional financial incentives through his conservation practices, including $50 per new acre of cover crops spread across three years. In the first year, the farmer receives $25 per acre, then $15 per acre the second year and $10 per acre in the third and final year.

“Having something living that’s holding that soil in place and preventing topsoil from leaving the field –that’s a huge piece,” Hegland says. “My big thing is, I’m a conservationist and we need programs like (CTIC and

Who is CTIC?


in 1982, the Conservation Technology Information Center supports the widespread use of economically and environmentally beneficial agricultural systems. Learn more at .

Farmers for Soil Health) that are going to incentivize farmers to want to do this.”

The Soy Checkoff, Pork Checkoff and National Corn Growers Association lead Farmers for Soil Health, which advances the use of soil health practices like cover crops to help improve farmer profitability.

“It’s great that these groups are investing checkoff resources into programs like these,” Coffman says.

Farmers for Soil Health has set a bold goal toward improving soil health by encouraging farmers to expand their cover crop adoption in efforts to reach 30 million U.S. acres by 2030. Enrollment for 2024 is now open, and farmers can learn more by visiting

“We want to leave the soil better than we found it,” Coffman says. “The longer you do these practices, the better your soil will get.”

Farmers for Soil Health Program Details

• Enrollment is now open at

• Farmers can self-enroll but are encouraged to seek out a soil health specialist

• Program is a three-year commitment

• Crop fields with corn and/or soybean in the rotation are eligible for transition incentives totaling $50 per new acre of cover crops across three years

• Signing incentives of $2 per acre are available for existing cover crops on corn and soybean fields

• The program requires participation in management, reporting and verification to demonstrate progress toward the program’s goal

April-May 2024 Prairie Grains Page 23
This material is based upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, under agreement number NR233A 750004G003. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In addition, any reference to specific grants or types of products or services does not constitute or imply an endorsement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for those products or services.


National Wheat Improvement Committee makes its case on Capitol Hill

Just as the cherry blossoms bloomed this spring, progress also sprouted in Washington, D.C., during the National Wheat Improvement Committee (NWIC) annual fly-in trip to the nation’s capital.

The advancements come not just in the form of the usual research funding requests, but as opportunities to open new toolboxes in wheat research that could lead to big breakthroughs in the future.

The committee is a nonprofit organization that represents the wheat research community, producers and processors from both public and private sectors. In total, 18 of the committee’s 24 members were present in D.C. during the two-day visit, which took place March 18-19 with federal legislators and key staff members. Local representation included Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers (MAWG) District 2 Director Mike Gunderson and University of Minnesota Small Grains Specialist Dr. Jochum Wiersma, a researcher supported by the wheat checkoff.

“These visits to the Capitol are very important for wheat research,” Gunderson said. “Unlike corn and soybeans, which funds a significant portion of their research through the private sector, wheat relies heavily on the university

system for their research, and we need funding from the state and federal government to make that happen.”

Funding priorities

During visits with legislators, the NWIC outlined several funding requests that help support a competitive and robust wheat industry.

The committee’s funding requests for fiscal year 2025 include:

• $15 million for the Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative;

• $3.44 million for the Wheat Genomics Initiative;

• Another $1.6 million for the Wheat Resiliency Initiative;

• and $750,000 in additional funding for the Wheat Stripe Rust Initiative.

“All things considered, what we are asking for is a pretty small piece of the pie when you look at the Ag Appropriations Bill as a whole,” Wiersma said. “Overall, the legislators were very receptive and have historically been supportive of our wheat research needs on both sides of the aisle.”

As a grower-leader, Gunderson had the opportunity to engage directly with legislators and explain how support for research projects can improve farmer profitability through preventing pest and disease outbreaks.

“I can look back to the 1990s, when scab was a major issue

Page 24 Prairie Grains • April-May 2024

and was detrimental to our wheat crop,” said Gunderson. “However, thanks to research we have done on fungicides and breeding resistant varieties, scab is much more easily managed.”

NWIC’s Wheat Resiliency Initiative is seeking funding to address four key challenges: wheat stem sawfly, Hessian fly, bacterial leaf streak and the rust diseases. Wheat stem fly is among the top concerns and is estimated to bring losses of more than $350 million annually for spring and winter wheat growers in Montana, Colorado, Nebraska, North and South Dakota and Kansas.

“For us here in Minnesota, bacterial leaf streak is probably our biggest concern, but wheat stem sawfly and Hessian fly is a broader issue and should be able to gather more support from the Ag Appropriations Committee,” Wiersma said. “Once we have our foot in the door with those issues, hopefully, we can build some

funding for us to address bacterial leaf streak here in Minnesota.”

A new tool in the toolbox

Wiersma, who made his ninth trip to Washington D.C., noted that this trip might have been the most significant because of the meeting they had just down the road from the Capitol building with USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service – Biotechnology Regulatory Services Division. The meeting was a follow-up on comments made by the National Association of Wheat Growers, NWIC and U.S. Wheat Associates on USDA’s proposed exemption rule changes that would open the door for gene-editing (GE) for wheat. Wiersma noted that from their conversations with USDA their commentaries were well received. He is optimistic that GE could soon become a tool for wheat growers.

“Getting these exemptions and allowing the technology to be used

would be huge for the research community and ultimately the growers as well,” Wiersma said. “I am hopeful that we will soon have the same set of tools that corn breeders and soybean breeders currently have access to.”

While wheat ranks third among U.S. field crops in planted acreage, production and gross farm receipts behind corn and soybeans, the longterm downward trend in planted acres reduces the industry’s ability to stay competitive in the export market. Advocates stress that every advantage can be gained through research and new tools.

“While having the legal framework in place that allows GE as a tool in wheat breeding does not mean acceptance of the technology by domestic or export partners,” Wiersma said. “Wheat producers could soon reap the benefits of tools other commodities have enjoyed for much longer.”

Capture the value of today’s best genetics. Plant North Dakota Certified Seed.

April-May 2024 Prairie Grains Page 25

Reid Remembers Retiring SDWC executive director leads a life of service

The wide world of wheat is based around building and maintaining relationships across the globe – from local communities to trading partners in the farthest corners of Asia or Africa.

Few leaders in agriculture remember names and faces quite like Reid Christopherson, the affable, outgoing executive director of the South Dakota Wheat Commission (SDWC).

“Reid’s memory is like a steel trap,” said farmer Bryan Jorgensen, chairman of SDWC. “Everywhere he goes, he knows people. He was just amazing in terms of how many people he knew.”

As the staff lead at SDWC, Christopherson took his role seriously representing South Dakota, whether he was engaging in-state or attending international trade missions with U.S. Wheat Associates.

“There’s an ever-increasing need to be telling our story on the global footprint,” he said. “There’s a lot of cheap wheat available on the global market, and we need to stand out and be different and tell them why we’re the best wheat so they can, in turn, take that back and tell our customers.”

After a decade at the helm of SDWC, which directs the state’s wheat checkoff program, Christopherson is stepping aside to spend more time with family, pursue other endeavors, travel and enjoy retirement – this time, he vowed, for good.

“I kind of joke that this is retirement No. 3 for me,” he said,

“and it’s kind of a joke that people are betting against me to stay retired.”

In his final weeks as executive director, Christopherson was focused on wrapping up winter meetings while training his successor, Jonathan Kleinjan, former Extension agronomist with South Dakota State University (SDSU).

“I’m excited to try something new,” Kleinjan said. “I’ve always had an appreciation for what this organization does, and wheat has always been one of my favorite crops to work with, so that led me to pursue this position.”

Kleinjan is hitting the ground running. He’s attended U.S. Wheat meetings in Washington, D.C., and will accompany Christopherson in May to the U.S. Wheat World Staff Conference in Malta.

“We’re really going to miss Reid, but Jonathan is going to be a great voice for us,” Jorgensen said.

Kleinjan joked that he’s been told often about the big shoes he’s going to fill. But the agronomist, who grows spring wheat, corn and soybeans on a 600-acre operation near Brookings, is ready for the task of replacing Christopherson

“Reid is so respected in the wheat world, and hopefully I can live up to expectations,” he said. “He’s teaching me the ropes.”

Christopherson said he can relate. He had a steep learning curve when he replaced Randy Englund in 2014. Now, he’s ensuring the same smooth transition for Kleinjan and SDWC’s five commissioners.

Page 26 Prairie Grains • April-May 2024
Reid Christopherson has represented South Dakota and U.S. Wheat on numerous trade missions with international partners. In 2021, Reid Christopherson earned the prestigious Silver Buffalo award, the highest possible honor bestowed by the Boy Scouts of America.
Because of his devotion to the military, Reid has a very deep sense of service, which I think drives him.

“Randy Englund left (SDWC) in a very good place for me,” Christopherson said. “I’ve tried to maintain that legacy that he left and continue to have a strong program.”

‘Sense of service’

Christopherson was hired by SDWC following nearly 40 years in the military and 32 years of civil service credit. After his forced retirement at 57, the SDWC opportunity opened up. Christopherson’s strong sense of duty and commitment proved beneficial to overseeing SDWC.

“Because of his devotion to the military, Reid has a very deep sense of service, which I think drives him,” Jorgensen said.

One of Christopherson’s top accomplishments as executive director was helping connect SDSU plant breeders with wheat industry leaders. One of those checkoff-supported researchers, SDSU Hard Red Winter Wheat Breeder Dr. Sunish Sehgal, is a two-time winner of the Wheat Quality Council Millers’ Best of Show Award.

“Reid’s involvement was a huge step in helping the plant breeders understand what the industry needs,” Jorgensen said.

Because SDWC invests most of its checkoff resources toward research, Christopherson said making those connections to promote the high quality of South Dakota wheat became one of the highlights of the job.

“I’ve enjoyed the opportunity where I could influence budget expenditures and equipment purchases and research collaboration to assist our breeders in developing the highest milling quality wheat possible,” he said.

While quick to recognize the “heavy lifting” of his

Prior to joining the South Dakota Wheat Commission, Reid Christopherson served 39 years in the United States military.

farmer-led board, Christopherson said accentuating the positives in the wheat industry helped him navigate the tumultuous moments.

“If anything, I’m a cheerleader and try to help and support and promote wheat,” he said. “What has really captured my attention is wheat quality and milling quality. That has really intrigued me.”

Christopherson holds a master’s degree in agriculture from SDSU. It was a full-circle moment when SDWC relocated to Brookings last year, a move that has saved costs and brought SDWC closer to its researchers.

“When we were in Pierre, it felt like we were separated,” Jorgensen said. “I think there’s been kind of a change in how producers view us. I think we’ve got a whole new realm of younger producers out there who are going to help us move forward from where we were.”

For Christopherson, relationship-building starts at home. The stability of SDWC’s board has helped make the organization stronger.

“We just have outstanding team members,” Christopherson said. “They’re smart. They’re engaged. They’ve got vision, and it’s a tremendously demanding volunteer job for them, but they’ve put all of it into it. Many of them I would’ve never known had I not had the opportunity to be in this position. Now they’re what I would call lifelong friends.”

April-May 2024 Prairie Grains Page 27
-SDWC Chairman Bryan Jorgensen
Learn more about South Dakota Wheat Commission projects at

The National Wheat Foundation (NWF) has opened the entry window for its ninth annual yield contest, which features a revamped website and pilot category in 2024. This year, 26 national winners will be named as U.S. wheat growers continue striving for high yield, superior quality and increased profit while adopting new and innovative management strategies.

“We are so thrilled to launch this new website where contestants will find it easier to enter, even using their cell phones,” said Anne Osborne, NWF yield contest director. “The data analysis is improved on this new website, so we can continue to share production practices that lead to winning yields and top quality.”

The website features a frequently asked questions (FAQs) section, along with reminders on each contestant’s dashboard highlighting the days remaining until deadlines for entries, payment and harvest data.

“As in past years, many of our great partners in the contest are offering vouchers that will pay a grower’s contest entry fee,” Osborne said. “A grower can select this option as they submit their contest entry.”

Growers can only be recognized as

a national winner in one category, but they may compete in as many categories for which they are eligible. The 2024 categories include irrigated winter wheat, dryland winter wheat, irrigated spring wheat and dryland spring wheat.

Contest fields must be at least five continuous acres planted with professionally produced, certified, branded and newly purchased wheat seed. The field must be verified by a third-party supervisor during harvest of the contest field.

Going digital

Also new for 2024 is a pilot category, Digital Yield, for dryland spring wheat growers in the Prairie Grains readership area: Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota. This option allows growers to use technologies such as John Deere Operations Center, Climate FieldView or Bushel – along with data from their calibrated grain cart scales – to submit their yield into the contest from a 20-acre selected area in a previously entered field. Eligible spring wheat growers may enter up to three fields in this new Digital Yield category.

Because the NWF yield contest encourages growers to strive for

National Wheat Foundation announces 2024 Yield Contest

both high yield and high quality, all contestants are required to retain a 10-pound sample of grain from their contest entry. Should an entry place nationally, the wheat sample will be milled, baked and evaluated for quality. Those ranked in the Top 3 for quality in their class by a panel of experts will be recognized and awarded an additional $250. All national winners will receive a trip to the 2025 Commodity Classic, which will be held March 2-4 in Denver.

Entrants must be a member in good standing of a recognized state wheat grower association – or National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) if from a state without a state wheat grower association – before completing and submitting an entry.

The 2023 contest saw a nearrecord 417 entries. In total, 83 state yield contest winners were awarded from 28 states. North Dakota grower Brad Disrud earned the Bin Buster award in the Spring Wheat-dryland category, with Minnesota’s John Wesolowski taking first place in the same category.

Each entry costs $100. Deadlines for entry are May 15 for winter wheat and Aug. 1 for spring wheat. For more information, or to register for the 2024 yield contest, visit

Page 28 Prairie Grains • April-May 2024

The 2024 SPRING WHEAT SURVEY will be out in May!

Each year the Minnesota Wheat Research & Promotion Council conducts a SPRING WHEAT SURVEY. The information gathered from the survey will help Dr. Jim Anderson, U of M Spring Wheat Breeder, with his selection of new varieties that meet the needs of you, the grower.

In late May, after planting is complete, the Spring Wheat Survey will be emailed and mailed out to wheat growers in Minnesota. Please take the time to complete the survey. It will only take a few minutes.

Whether you received a survey in the mail, email, or received the information from another source, if you live in Minnesota and planted spring wheat, we welcome you to complete a survey.

The link to the survey will be available on in May.

The combined results of the surveys will be put into a report that shows each variety as a percent of all wheat acreas in the state and regions of the state. Results will be published in the Prairie Grains magazine in the fall.

Thank you, Minnesota Wheat Research & Promotion Council


The Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers has an open At-Large Director position for farmers interested in building their leadership skills while advocating on behalf of the state’s dynamic wheat industry.

MAWG directors serve three-year terms and represent wheat farmers by promoting farm-friendly legislation in St. Paul and Washington, D.C. The board meets six times annually.

All applicants must be active MAWG members.

April-May 2024 Prairie Grains Page 29
DIRECTOR To express interest, contact Executive Director Brian Sorenson at or call (218) 253-4311 ext 1.
This survey is conducted for the benefit of the University of Minnesota Spring Wheat Breeding Program. Your cooperation is greatly appreciated! 2024 SWS ad for PG Mag (#200 April issue).indd 1 4/16/2024 2:24:13 PM


FHB Risk Tool goes live for 2024

The U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative (USWBSI) is serious about defending against scab. That’s why the organization recommends using the FHB Risk Tool, a map that provides predictions of risk for Fusarium Head Blight (FHB) based on models built using historical weather and disease data.

The FHB Risk Tool is now active for the 2024 growing season. It provides disease risk for both wheat and barley in 35 states. To use the FHB Risk Tool simply select your market class (winter or spring) and susceptibility level of variety (susceptible, moderately susceptible or moderately resistant) using the “bulleted list” button located in the top left corner of the map. The map will automatically adjust to the user’s selection.

Scan the QR code to access the FHB Risk Tool:

Users can choose a date for the assessment period for FHB and expand that period by two, four or six days to view anticipated disease risk trends.

Leopold Conservation Award comes to Minnesota

A prestigious award program that celebrates voluntary conservation efforts on farms and forestland is coming to Minnesota.

The Leopold Conservation Award honors farmers and forestland owners who excel in their management of soil health, water quality and wildlife habitat on working land. Leopold Conservation Awards are given to private landowners in 27 states, including North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana.

Inspired by renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the award recognizes landowners who inspire others

with their dedication to environmental improvement. Nominations may be submitted on behalf of a landowner, or landowners may apply themselves.

The Minnesota application can be found .

Applications are reviewed by an independent panel of agricultural and conservation leaders from Minnesota. The application deadline date is July 1, 2024. Applications must be emailed to The award recipient receives $10,000, and their conservation success story will be featured in a video and in other outreach.

The Minnesota Leopold Conservation Award is made possible through the generous support of numerous groups, including the Minnesota Wheat Research & Promotion Council.

Montana Wheat & Barley Committee awards scholarships to plant science students

In March, the Montana Wheat & Barley Committee hosted its first-ever competition between 19 Montana State University plant sciences students vying for $3,900 in scholarships. Brandon Tillett took home firstplace honors with his project focused on the effects of climate change on pollination timing in spring wheat. Students were also recognized for projects related to predicting end use quality traits, identifying key genes for heat stress protection and more.

“MWBC invested $2.3 million in research-related projects in our most recent grant cycle,” said Kent Kupfner, MWBC executive director. “Traditionally in the spring, we ask faculty to brief our board on their project progress. Sam Anderson, our research and market development director, came up with the idea to instead involve the students who are behind the scenes.”

The lively competition mimicked “Shark Tank” with students pitching their projects in less than five minutes. MWBC board members and sponsors made up the judging panel.

Page 30 Prairie Grains • April-May 2024

ND, MN farmers sought for IPM Crop Survey

Minnesota Wheat, the University of Minnesota (UMN) and North Dakota State University (NDSU) are encouraging participation in the 2024 Integrated Pest Management Crop Survey. The program is designed to assist farmers in managing diseases and pests found in wheat, barley, soybeans and sunflowers.

If a farmer has a wheat field or plans to have one, and would like to submit as a potential survey site to contribute to statewide Minnesota pest maps, they can apply by scanning the QR code:

Because scouts are based in Morris, Moorhead and Crookston, UMN is seeking sites in the western half of Minnesota. As in past surveys, field locations will not be shared outside UMN and NDSU’s Integrated Pest Management teams.

Fields that are relatively accessible from a roadside are preferred. Submissions will be selected to give the best geographic representations of study sites. UMN can provide results for a farmer’s field, so please include your email to ensure researchers can send timely updates on scouting results.

Maps will be available online and alerts will be posted on Minnesota Crop News’ website. Scouting will begin sampling in late May or early June on a weekly basis.

In North Dakota, researchers survey insect pests and diseases of wheat, barley, sunflower and soybeans, along with insect trapping in wheat and sunflower. For more information, North Dakota growers can contact NDSU Extension Entomologist Janet J. Knodel at janet.

Minnesota’s crop survey is funded by Minnesota Wheat and the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council. Growers can email Anthony Hanson (hans4022@ for more information.

A summary of the pest survey results will be available in Minnesota Wheat’s Research Review during the 2024 Prairie Grains Conference.

April-May 2024 Prairie Grains Page 31
Providing solutions for your success 218-745-4166 747 S. Main St. Warren, MN 56762

The Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program rewards farmers like you for what you do best, taking care of your land and its natural resources.

To get started and learn more, contact your local soil and water conservation district or go to:


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