Kentucky Small Grain Growers Association

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Growing Results: 25 Years of Research

Don Halcomb, Chairman, Kentucky Small Grain Promotion Council

As I write this, it’s raining and concerns of the March freeze, rust and other wheat issues are on my mind, but it also gives me time to reflect on how far the Kentucky’s small grain industry has come.

After 25 years of dedicating more than $2.5 million to production research, Kentucky wheat production has increased 87%. And while 2016 may not have been a record production year, the average wheat yield of 80 bushels per acre was the highest recorded in Kentucky history. In fact, increases in average Kentucky wheat yields exceed that of corn for the same 25-year period. This tremendous growth is primarily due to the collaboration between farmers, the University of Kentucky’s research and extension team, crop consultants, and end-users.

The Kentucky Small Grain Utilization Fund and our farmer-led Promotion Council was formed in 1991 to direct checkoff toward wheat and small grains research and grower education. UK’s Wheat Science Group has worked to develop varieties that perform well under Kentucky conditions, and agronomic practices continue to be fine-tuned for the highest profitability. Much of our research centered on intensive management and no-till practices for many years, and now we are looking at technology and methods that may be considered beyond standard thinking: reducing the fragipan, soil irrigation, and disease control alternatives, to name a few.

As we are always looking for ways to increase profitability for small grain growers, we are seeing a potential in additional small grains for specialty products. I am proud and amazed of the work that has been done to develop a chia variety for Kentucky, and our organization gets countless requests from the growing brewing and distilling industry for barley and rye. We have worked for years with Virginia Tech on barley, and they recently became involved in a growing cooperative national research project that is studying winter malt barley. Trials are being conducted in Kentucky, and we are funding a project with UK to update management practices for barley and rye produced in the commonwealth. If you’re involved with the barley or rye production or want to be, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our organization to be a resource when introduction requests come our way.

Finally, sharing results and information with growers has always been a primary objective of our association. All the research project results can be found in this report and on our website,, and growers may also attend the KySGGA-sponsored education events hosted by the University of Kentucky. The Winter Wheat Meeting is always well attended, and we recently sponsored two hands-on wheat field schools and an emergency response meeting due to this year’s freeze event at the UK Research and Education Center. The ability of UK’s extension team to disseminate the latest information is outstanding. Kygrains,info is another great site for helpful articles, resources, and videos.  

The UK Wheat Field Day will be held on May 9, where research and extension specialists will be addressing topics such as UAV use in wheat, soils, and insect and disease management. Another field school is planned for September.

KySGGA has also just sent out a call-for-research projects. If you have any ideas for investigative trials or issues you want to see addressed, please do not hesitate to contact us at 800-326-0906. We always welcome new ideas on how to serve our grain growers for continued growth in the small grains industry.