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Advancing Towards Triple-Digit Wheat Yields: Illinois Farmers Pave the Way
Illinois Ag Connection - 05/31/2023

Illinois farmers have achieved record-breaking wheat yields in recent years, averaging an impressive 79 bushels per acre. However, groundbreaking research conducted at the University of Illinois indicates that there is still significant potential for further improving wheat yields across the state. As a result, the dream of attaining 100-plus bushel farm yields may soon become a reality for more wheat growers.

Jessica Rutkoski, a small grains breeder and quantitative geneticist at the University of Illinois, is optimistic about the genetic advancements that can be made. Speaking at a wheat plot tour hosted by the Illinois Wheat Association (IWA), Rutkoski highlighted the possibility of a one bushel per acre annual increase through genetic improvements. Moreover, she cited successful fields observed during the Southern Illinois Wheat Tour, which achieved yields ranging from 130 to 140 bushels per acre, as evidence of the attainability of higher yields.

The research team at the University of Illinois, led by Rutkoski, is focused on developing wheat traits that contribute to better yields, including scab resistance, test weights, and early maturity. Early maturity is particularly beneficial as it allows farmers to harvest wheat in a timely manner and plant double crop soybeans, optimizing the rotation's overall output.

This year, the team is evaluating around 1,400 unique breeding lines across 7,000 wheat plots in Illinois. The goal is to combine desirable traits, such as high yield, test weight, maturity, disease resistance, and optimal height. Rutkoski acknowledged the challenges in finding rare combinations of these traits while meeting the high standards set by the best commercial varieties.

Once promising varieties are identified through the U of I small grains breeding program, seed companies conduct their own testing and may eventually license them under various brand names, benefiting farmers and the industry.

Ongoing evaluations of this year's wheat plots, cultivated under realistic field conditions, will provide valuable data for assessing wheat performance. Rutkoski expressed satisfaction with the uniformity and quality of the fields, which contribute to accurate evaluations.

In related news, the Illinois Wheat Association's annual wheat yield contest has a deadline of June 4. For more information, visit or contact them at 309-557-3363 or Last year's contest was won by Grant LaForge from Logan County, who achieved an impressive yield of 142 bushels per acre.

Additionally, the University of Illinois will host a small grains field day on June 2, focusing on their wheat and oats breeding programs. The event will take place at the South Farms Research and Education Center in Urbana, starting at 8:30 a.m. Further details can be found at

With the dedication of Illinois farmers and ongoing research efforts, the possibility of triple-digit wheat yields is within reach. These advancements in wheat production hold great potential for enhancing productivity and profitability, contributing to the thriving agricultural landscape of Illinois.

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