Which wheat variety produces the most profit?

During the growing season my father John often brings home heads of wheat picked from his crops to show us their size and development.

With three different wheat varieties grown on farm this year – EGA Wedgetail, LongReach Lancer and Condo – the size of the wheat heads has been a topic of conversation that usually ends with a prediction about which variety will go on to produce the most money per hectare.

I was personally interested in which variety produced the most grains per head, so I asked dad to pick five heads from each of the different varieties so I could do a count.

Photos of John Baxter’s wheat heads

(from left: EGA Wedgetail, LongReach Lancer and Condo wheat heads).

I did a quick poll asking a few people which variety looked like it would carry the most grains. Interestingly most people selected EGA Wedgetail.

It’s a logical conclusion because EGA Wedgetail was planted on 12 April and has had the longest time to acquire moisture and nutrients from the soil for grain fill. LongReach Lancer was planted on 25 April and Condo on 21 May.

After painstakingly extracting all the grains from the heads, I discovered that Condo averaged the most grains per head at 96, followed by EGA Wedgetail at 87 and LongReach Lancer at 64.

Photos of counted grains

But this does not even go close to providing an accurate estimate of how a crop might yield.

One way, suggested by the Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia (DAFWA), involves the following.

“To calculate yield, use the head number per metre square, count the number of grains in at least 10 heads and calculate the average number of grains per head. Do not count all large heads as this will lead to an overestimate.

To calculate yield estimate in tonnes per hectare =
Heads/m² x number of grains/head x estimated seed weight divided by 100″

(Sourced from: Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia)

The Department of Agriculture and Food, WA, says seed weights can vary markedly by district and season. As a guide they suggest wheat seed weights of between 30 and 45 milligrams.

So, knowing that LongReach Lancer and EGA Wedgetail produce many more heads per square metre than Condo, it might be reasonable to expect that EGA Wedgetail may produce the most money per hectare.

Ultimately, however, we will never really know how each variety will perform until the harvester goes into the paddock and the wheat is delivered for sale.

While Condo may produce big yields because of its large head size and plump grain, it can only be sold as an Australian Hard variety. This means its protein levels tend to be lower than LongReach Lancer or EGA Wedgetail (both Australian Prime Hard varieties), which attract higher prices.

So at the moment it’s a case of wait and see. I’ll let you know the results when the profit analysis is completed.