CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA) — High prices for wheat, due to a drought in Kansas and the war in Ukraine, have increased interest in wheat among more farmers. After being rained out on Wednesday, the University of Illinois hosted a small grains field day on Thursday at its Crop Sciences Farm on South First Street.

Increased interest in double-cropping wheat and soybeans has increased the research opportunity for university small grains specialist Jessica Rutkoski.

“I didn’t see any kind of winterkill either in our plots or even in farmers’ fields. I think if some people planted really late, they might have had it, but I think it came through the winter really well,” Rutkoski said. “Every year is always very exciting for me because I see the new lines coming through and every year. It’s different, I’m really excited. I think the plots look really good this year in spite of some of the odd weather we’ve had in the spring.”

She expects more wheat acres planted this fall, boosted by price prospects and government promotion.

“I think that is helping, but the price of wheat being so high and issues of food security in general are causing people to be interested in wheat,” Rutkoski said. “With crop insurance being favorable for double-cropping, I think that also helps a lot. I think in the fall, acreage is going to be even higher than it has been.”

Her research is focused on eradication of head scab and speeding up the breeding process.

“I have a range of projects,” Rutkoski said. “I would say most of them are focused on how do we make breeding more efficient and faster gain, and scab resistance is always a big one for us.”

That’s where you’ve put an awful lot of your emphasis on, and how are we coming on that?

“Our research is showing we are reducing DON or vomitoxin one part per million every 10 years genetically, just through breeding,” Rutkoski said.