At last we have found out how to get SRW Wheat Breeder Don Obert to keep a blog – we got his Research Assistant Tracy Beall to write it for him! That means you can now expect to see more frequent updates from the busy Lafayette program. In this installment you can see how the Indiana-based team prepared for the 2013/14 season – their biggest yet by far…

September 13 – The doubled haploid lines have arrived – all 5,000 of them – each one a genetically pure potential new variety. Pacific Northwest Breeder Jean-Bruno Beafumé and his team did the first seed increase on these for us last year – in the mild climate of Washington State. The seed from the lab in England arrived too late to plant in the frozen Midwest! We sorted them by variety and weight to determine which will go into multi-location plots, single plots, or head rows.

September 25 – Our new Kubota mini-tractor arrived in grand style! It’s controlled by GPS to guarantee straight and accurate lines. We dared not comment to the truck driver about the efficiency with which he used his flat-bed loading space…

Late September – Don Obert is on the planter while Research Assistant Jeremiah Menefee drives the tractor as they plant the test plots at Lafayette – our home site and our biggest field.

October 7 – The plots have emerged and they look wonderful – straight and uniform!

February 2014 – Where are our beautiful plots? They’re under a sheet of ice, as we endure our toughest winter for decades. Still – at least we get a good winter-hardiness test!

Back to October (14th): Napoleon, Ohio – Don and Jeremiah resume their positions on the planter and tractor. The end of the optimum planting window is near so we work into the night!

October 17: Back at Lafayette – Don and Jeremiah set up the planter for head rows. Instead of using envelopes as we do to plant plots, we use magazines of bubble trays to make individual rows.

Several of the bubble trays are stacked and ready for planting in this photo.

October 23: Harrisburg, Illinois – The last off-site field to be planted for the season. That’s me – Tracy Beall, Research Assistant. At last, I’m in one of the photos. It’s not that I’m camera shy – it’s just that I’m usually the one taking the pictures!

Meanwhile back at the research station, we’ve all been busy with the winter wheat crossing programs for the entire US – it’s logistically more efficient to keep all the winter crossing programs in one place. The spring wheat program remains in Fort Collins, but all the other breeders use the bigger greenhouse facilities at Lafayette. You can read how we welcomed them to the Midwest in the next installment…