CASSELTON, N.D. — North Dakota has long been the king of hard red spring wheat, which is found in bread sold around the world.
To mark this honor, North Dakota State University scientists planted wheat seeds from every variety they have developed in a field just off Interstate 94 not far from the Casselton ethanol plant. The grain comes from seeds dating back to before North Dakota was a state.
"What you will see in some of the data is there are some old lines that cannot be beaten," said Andrew Green, a wheat breeder at NDSU. "It is really humbling to see some of the things they were able to do without the technology we have today."
For the last couple of months, NDSU spring wheat breeders and scientists have been watching some black dirt miracles take place.
This spring, the university got seeds from every spring wheat variety ever produced, with some dating back to before the Civil War, including Red Fife, which set the standard for wheat nationwide.
"Plant breeding is an art and a science, and the art was really strong with some of these early breeders because these varieties have stood the test of time," Greene explained.
The assortment includes Pilot seed from 1932, Ceres from 1926, Premier from 1942 and many others bred and invented right at NDSU before World War II. NDSU was able to get the seed from the U.S. Department of Agriculture collection in Idaho, which stores the university's seeds.
"It is nice to see the products of their early work and now come home," Green said.
There are 180 plots close to NDSU's Agronomy Seed Farm off I-94 with 60 varieties of hard red spring — a collection of spring wheat breeders' and plant scientists' "aha" moments.
WDAY's first weatherman, Dewey Bergquist, can be seen in a documentary talking about North Dakota and hard red spring wheat's contributions to feeding the nation.
Below, you can watch the classic 1964 documentary from Bergquist and the North Dakota Wheat Commission: "North Dakota Hard Red Spring Wheat."