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Zak, Promising New Wheat Variety

PULLMAN, Wash. — The Washington wheat industry is keeping a close eye on Zak, a promising newcomer among soft white spring wheat varieties.

Zak’s credentials look hard to beat. It has outstanding end-use quality, is tolerant to the Hessian fly, is resistant to stripe rust and has higher yield potential than Wawawai, the main variety it is expected to replace in eastern Washington’s high rainfall zones, which receive 20 inches or more of moisture a year.

Wheat breeder Kim Kidwell said Wawawai, which was released in 1994, exhibits similar traits, but many growers don’t grow it because of notoriously poor threshing qualities, which often result in high dockage for trash. Wawawai also is tall and produces so much residue that farmers have difficulty planting and establishing the next year’s crop.

Zak’s yields averaged 78 bushels per acre in 1997-1998, more than 5 bushels per acre more than Wawawai and Alpowa. Under irrigation, its two-year average was 132 bushels per acre compared with 129 for Vanna and 125 for Penawawa.

The wheat industry also is excited about the potential Zak has for developing a new market. Most of Washington’s soft white wheat is exported, but Nabisco has expressed interest in Zak for use in products sold in domestic markets.

In Fall 1999, the ADM mill in Cheney made a large-scale commercial run of Zak. The flour was shipped to Nabisco’s Portland bakery for commercial-scale baking tests. Kidwell says if the market develops, it would provide growers a novel opportunity to sell spring wheat locally.

“Within four years, more acres of Zak will be grown in Washington than any other spring wheat variety,” Kidwell predicts.

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