Variety selection is important in any crop production system. A good dual-purpose wheat variety requires certain traits not needed in grain-only production systems. Perhaps one of the most unique traits a dual-purpose wheat must posses is the ability to germinate well in hot soil conditions (> 85°F or 29°C). Dual-purpose wheat sowing frequently begins just before Labor Day, when soil temperatures can exceed 100°F (38°C). Many wheat varieties have high-temperature germination sensitivity and will not germinate well in hot soil conditions.
The degree to which high temperature germination sensitivity affects wheat emergence can vary by seed lot and by environment. A cool rain or irrigation treatment, for example, will often result in complete germination, even in sensitive varieties. Sow sensitive varieties later in the year when soils have cooled.
Varieties differ in their ability to grow and produce adequate forage in the fall, but very few modern wheat varieties are classified as “poor” forage producers. Breeding efforts in the southern Great Plains over the past decade have emphasized forage production as a critical trait, so wheat cultivars currently being grown in the southern Great Plains are generally good forage producers. Some varieties consistently produce more fall forage than others. This exceptional fall forage production potential can sometimes come at the cost of winter hardiness, so it is important to consider the ability to recover from grazing and yield potential after grazing as well.
The key to reliable, consistent management of high temperature germination sensitivity is to know the sensitivity ratings of varieties by checking a current variety comparison chart (variety performance guides are available through local cooperative extension offices). Data on fall forage production by wheat varieties and grain yield following grazing in the southern Great Plains is commonly available through local cooperative extension offices. It is important to view forage production data in combination with grain yield data from a grazed environment. Some wheat varieties tolerate grazing much better than others, and the “yield penalty” associated with grazing these varieties is much less.