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Minnesota on track for record wheat yields

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Wheat grows in a field near Gaylord, Minn., this fall.
Wheat grows in a field near Gaylord, Minn., this fall.
Maria Alejandra Cardona | MPR News file

The University of Minnesota says wheat yields will hit a record 67 bushels per acre this year, topping the 60 bushels per acre harvested in 2015. 

Yields have doubled since 1995, partly because of successful regional wheat breeding programs that developed new varieties well suited to the states growing conditions, said Jochum Wiersma, small grains scientist with U of M extension.

The boost in yields has come equally from improvements in genetics and better crop management; farmers have also been doing a better job of managing fungal diseases that decimated wheat crops in the early 1990s, Wiersma added.

This year just over half of the wheat grown in Minnesota came from varieties developed by the University of Minnesota. 

While yields have steadily increased, fewer acres of wheat are planted in the state as farmers switched to corn and soybeans, Wiersma said.

About 1.17 million acres of Minnesota farmland were planted with wheat in 2017, down from 1.3 million last year, according to the U. Most of the wheat is grown in the northwestern part of the state.

The total harvest is forecast at 75.7 million bushels this year, up slightly from 2016 but down significantly from 85.8 million bushels in 2015.

Minnesota ranked 8th among states in wheat production last year.