Wheat: Unintentional Mixtures of Red, White Can Happen

Wheat: Unintentional Mixtures of Red, White Can Happen

August 8, 2008

MANHATTAN, Kan. - It happens from time to time — a grower brings a load of red wheat to the elevator, only to learn that the load has white wheat mixed in with the red. If the producer has not grown any white wheat, said Kansas State University agronomist Jim Shroyer, he or she may very well believe that the grain inspector made a mistake.

"Grain inspectors are good at their jobs, however. It's safe to assume the classification is correct," said Shroyer, who is a wheat specialist with K-State Research and Extension.

The only way to have a significant amount of white wheat mixed with red, he said, is to plant seed that already is a mix of those wheats or to unintentionally mix the grains after harvest.

"It is important to know and trust the source of your seed," Shroyer said. "Buying certified seed is the best way to know what you're getting."

Most red wheat varieties have one or two genes for white wheat. So, producers sometimes wonder if the plants of a red wheat variety can occasionally "revert back" to being a white wheat in the field — thus causing a mixture of red with white.

"The short answer to this is no," Shroyer said. "Red wheat genes are dominant. It's just not possible for a red wheat to revert to being a white wheat in the field."

A small amount of outcrossing with white wheat from another field is possible. But, even if this were to occur, it would only result in 1% to 2% of the seed's being a different type — which isn't enough to be a concern, he said.

Wheat is almost entirely self-pollinated, Shroyer explained. So, as it pollinates its own plant, a red wheat will stay true to type.

Growers may not think their seed could originally have included both red and white wheat, but that kind of mix can occur. If growers use their own saved grain for seed or get seed from a source other than a certified seed producer, red wheat may contain some white wheat or
vice versa, he said.

"It doesn't matter if you're growing red wheat or white wheat. The bottom line is just to obtain seed from a reliable source so that you know for sure what you're getting," Shroyer said.

News Release
Kansas State University Research and Extension

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