News and Events

Weckerly Farms takes Farming High Tech

Northern Plains agriculturists use variable-rate data, prescription fertilizers and premium seed varieties to reduce costs and boost yields.

HURDSFIELD, N. Dak. April 3, 2014: Brothers Chad and Cole Weckerly come from solid farming stock; their great grandfather founded Weckerly Farms more than 60 years ago. But that doesn’t mean they’re living in the past. With the encouragement of their father Terry Weckerly, the brothers have been instrumental in implementing real-time, cutting-edge technology to propel Weckerly Farms, as well as their peers, into the future of farming.

“Growing up, there was never any doubt that I was going to be a farmer,” Chad says. He left the farm only long enough to earn his degree in agricultural economics. Cole received a business management degree with a minor in entrepreneurship and brought that entrepreneurial spirit back to the family business in 2007.

Chad and Cole saw others in the industry using new technologies — like evaluating variable-rate data through new software and utilizing prescription fertilizers — and became interested in how they could put some of those ideas into practice for Weckerly Farms as well as the farmers they served through their seed dealership arm, Hurdsfield Grain.

“There’s a great community of growers and dealers learning new ways through trial and error,” Cole shares. “We don’t view each other as competition. We’re not worried about one-upping each other; we’re worried about the untreated acre.”

Growing their knowledge through seminars and open-forum groups, the Weckerly brothers expanded their offerings to include a full-scale implementation of variable-rate technology and immediately began reaping additional benefits from the varieties they carry, particularly Limagrain Cereal Seeds’ LCS Breakaway, LCS Powerplay, LCS Albany and LCS Iguacu.

“Albany has a high yield potential, and I would sell Breakaway to any grower,” says Chad. “Breakaway is fit for variable-acre terrain and results in top-end yield with protein.”

While they are clearly driven to explore the limits of new technology, the brothers understand that it all comes back to improving the bottom line for farmers.

“Growers make money by increasing their yield and lowering their input costs,” Cole says. “Before we had these variable-rate methods, growers might go to the effort to zone sample each field every year, which can get expensive. Through experience, we have found fields where we can eliminate or reduce the frequency of zone sampling to reduce costs.”

The Weckerlys’ high-tech toolkit includes Ag Data Mapping Solutions ¬— a software program from GK Technologies that creates multiple-layer maps reflecting data like topography, yield, drainage planning and variable-rate fertilizer application — and Veris — a machine that measures the textures of soil through electrical conductivity to make soil sampling maps.

With the information gathered from their high-tech testing, the Weckerlys can make recommendations on how to fertilize based on the different Limagrain Cereal Seeds variety agronomic packages and each farmer’s yield goals. The Weckerleys are quick to point out that while deciphering variable-rate data might sound complicated, it doesn’t have to be.

“We have the tools to do anything a farmer wants,” explains Cole. “It’s fun to take the farmer’s vision and produce success, and most growers are already set up for these technologies.”

The Weckerlys already have their eyes on a new gadget: an unmanned aerial system.

“We can let that thing fly at 120 miles per hour and get down to sub-foot accuracy, which provides more uniform data,” Chad says. “That’s the future.”

Weckerly Farms is a diversified farming operation located in Hurdsfield, ND. The family-owned farm has been working the land for generations, growing a variety of crops and offering an array of seed varieties, including wheat, corn and soybeans.

Creating Opportunity Through Collaboration

LCS Vice President of Research, Dr. Jim Peterson, recently spoke at the University of Idaho on public and private research collaborations. Along with an overview of the Varsity Idaho partnership, Jim gives some good background on Limagrain’s global research program, and some plans for the future of wheat breeding in the U.S.

Shuttle Breeding and Global Genetics send Wheat improvements into Overdrive

Partnerships between Limagrain's US and South American wheat programs are creating new options for HRS growers

FORT COLLINS, Colo., Feb. 11, 2013 - Hard Red Spring Wheat growers may not realize it, but close to a dozen breeding programs located all over the planet are supporting the development of new LCS varieties each year for markets in the Northern Plains of the United States, according to Dr. Jim Peterson, Limagrain Cereal Seeds’ Vice President of Research.

Public universities and private breeding programs have been developing new varieties for many years in Minnesota, Montana and the Dakotas. When Limagrain Cereal Seeds (LCS) entered the market, the Limagrain Group’s global breeding network gave wheat farmers access to the best spring wheat genetics in the world, not just in the Northern Plains.

The seeds of change were sown when LCS purchased Dr. Bob Romig’s Trigen Seeds program in 2010. The ensuing LCS/Trigen wheat breeding program has been incorporating genetics from advanced Limagrain breeding programs on five different continents.

Through a combination of traditional and advanced breeding strategies including Pre-Breeding, Molecular Marker Analysis, Doubled Haploid Technology, Single Seed Descent, disease screening and end-use quality analysis, plant breeders working in these global programs create new elite varieties each year.

In 2010, Dr. Peterson put a plan in motion to manage and exploit this global germplasm base. For the LCS spring wheat program, partnerships in South America, Scandinavia, the Mediterranean region and Australia have made it possible not only for counter-season nursery exchange, but for the incorporation of a shuttle-breeding approach. Through shuttle-breeding, two programs can make concurrent selections for disease and stress tolerance that will benefit both programs, and in time, the growers they serve.

The Best Genetics in the World

The life cycle required to create a new variety of wheat begins with the cross pollination of a single hybrid head, and through conventional breeding, ends 8–10 years later with the sale and distribution of purified elite foundation seed. LCS’ partnership with advanced programs in other parts of the world has made it possible not only to test and exchange elite germplasm at earlier generations, but to import elite varieties with seed stocks already available for production.

In terms of disease resistance, this partnership has provided access to material that has been bred to thrive in environments with high pressure from Fusarium Head Blight, Leaf Rust, Crown and Root Rot, and bacterial diseases. This means these varieties will have new and durable resistance packages for the most prominent yield-reducing pathogens in the Northern Plains.

With advanced genetics available, regional adaptation and end-use quality become the next big hurdles. “By and large, foreign genetics usually require some level of re-combination with regionally adapted cultivars before they can succeed and compete in a new environment,” said LCS HRS Senior Breeder Dr. Blake Cooper. “However, some of the South American material we’ve been testing were able to hit the ground running the first year we had it in trials in terms of agronomic performance.”

The ability to exploit these relationships directly saves generations in the breeding cycle, and leaves a final question that is asked of all LCS elite variety candidates: “Does it have the quality required to make an end-use product?” The new LCS quality lab is in place to provide a final assessment of the milling and baking properties of these candidates before they are considered for release.

LCS’ first U.S. release to come from this international partnership will be widely available to growers next year, as 2013 foundation seed stocks have already been sold out for months.

“We’re very excited about the potential of this new variety,” Cooper said. “Technical information will be available soon on our website, — so keep watching.”