Wheat field

BOZEMAN, Mont. – After 12 years of development, two new varieties of winter wheat, Bobcat and Flathead, are ready to be released into the world in hopes of helping farmers.

Both Bobcat and Flathead are blended varieties that have been bred to address some of the biggest issues plaguing Montana’s wheat farmers: pesky sawflies and stripe rust fungus infections.

They’re also grown with the goal of bringing in even better crop yields.

True to the team it’s named after (Cats fans hope), the solid-stemmed Bobcat variety is a strong crop, surviving a sawfly outbreak that took out its parent varieties.

Doug Holen is the manager of Montana State University’s Foundation Seed Program, which is behind the development of the new varieties.

“[Bobcat]'s gonna give us protection against sawfly but also keep the bushels up where producers want, in comparison to the hollow-stem varieties,” Holen explains. “I’m really glad that we could stamp this really promising variety with Bobcat, because it says ‘MSU’ louder than anything.”

Flathead, which is named after the area where it was developed, comes from what has been the number one wheat variety in Montana for the last 8-9 years: Yellowstone.

"It's everything Yellowstone, with improved striped rust resistance,” says Holen. “It kind of completes our portfolio of genetics for someone that's looking for winter wheat varieties."

Holen adds that the naming process is fairly in-depth, with most names have a significance to where they were grown or who grew them. And no, they haven’t considered naming any wheat varieties after Montana State’s rival Griz just yet.

The university says the seeds are expected to be ready for Montana growers to purchase in time for the 2021 season.

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