MSU varieties top-planted wheat crops in Montana

Jenny Lavey
MSU News Service
A farmer near Great Falls inspects a mid-summer wheat crop. MSU photo by Kelly Gorham.
Kelly_Gorham |

Montana farmers planted wheat varieties developed by the Montana State University Montana Agricultural Experiment Station (MAES) more than any other variety in 2015, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

USDA statistics show that Montana planted 5.8 million acres of wheat this year, with 2.2 million acres of spring and winter wheat varieties developed by MAES. MSU wheat varieties accounted for approximately $500 million of $1.2 billion wheat sold by Montana farmers in 2015, according to MSU wheat breeding specialists. Some wheat varieties developed by MSU are sold by private companies. Montana exports 20 percent of agricultural products as foreign exports and 75 percent of its wheat to Asian markets, according to the USDA.

“This data clearly demonstrates that our producers and consumers value wheat varieties developed by Montana State, and that these varieties bring enormous value to the Montana and global economy,” said Charles Boyer, MSU vice president of agriculture. “Our faculty scientists have deep experience, which provides the foundation for developing varieties that meet challenges and desires not only of Montana grain growers, but to the world market as well. Our university breeding program is vital to the state’s highest-grossing industry, and we’re committed to working with and alongside our producers for a robust grain industry in Montana.”

Montana producers choose to plant MAES varieties because they are specifically adapted to Montana’s climate and several are resistant to common diseases and pests found statewide, said Barry Jacobsen, associate director of MAES.

“Our breeding program develops varieties that are specifically bred for Montana’s climate and pests, while at the same, they are high-yield, high-protein and have exceptional baking quality, so they perform well for our growers and customers,” Jacobsen said. “Our varieties also have consistent protein content and noodle and bread making qualities, so desired by our global markets.”

According to the USDA, Montana is the fourth-highest state for total planted wheat in the country, fifth in the nation for winter wheat production and the second-largest spring wheat producer in the country.

2.4 million acres of winter wheat were planted across Montana this year. MAES winter wheat varieties accounted for 59 percent, or 1.4 million acres of total planted winter wheat acreage across the state. The top-seeded varieties were Yellowstone, Judee and Decade, respectively.

2.6 million acres of spring wheat were planted across Montana this year, with 32 percent, or 810,000 acres, seeded with a MAES-developed spring wheat variety. For the fifth year in a row, Vida, a hard-red spring wheat developed by MAES, was the most commonly planted spring wheat across the state. Vida accounted for 16.8 percent of all planted spring wheat in 2015, while additional MAES spring wheat varieties accounted for 13.2 percent.

The Montana Agricultural Experiment Station and the MSU College of Agriculture Department of Plant Sciences and Plant Pathology host a world-renowned plant breeding program that emphasizes both traditional and molecular approaches in plant breeding and genetics that emphasizes high yields, pest resistance and high quality. More information about the breeding program is available at