Wheat improvement efforts at Hays started soon after the turn of the century when the station was first established. Since then, 14 wheat varieties primarily developed at Hays have been released to Kansas wheat producers. Over 120 million Kansas wheat acres have been planted with Hays-developed varieties. Those varieties include Kiowa, Bison, Eagle, Sage, Kirwin, Larned, Cheney, Arkan, Dodge, Norkan, Ike, Trego, Lakin, Stanton, Danby, RonL, and Tiger. Genetic enhancement of wheat at Hays is an integral part of the total Kansas Agricultural Experiment Station’s wheat improvement program. Close cooperation exists between the Hays and Manhattan wheat improvement units. The Hays unit primarily develops varieties adapted to western Kansas while the Manhattan unit concentrates on varieties adapted to central and eastern Kansas. Varieties such as Newton, Karl, Karl 92, Jagger, 2137, Overley, Fuller, and Everest were selected by the Manhattan unit, but were thoroughly tested by both programs statewide prior to release.
In 1987, the breeding focus at Hays begin changing gradually to the development of hard winter wheats with a white seed coat. This change in focus culminated in 1998 when the program was almost totally directed toward the development of hard white winter wheats. This change has been implemented in an effort to increase world demand for Kansas wheat. The world markets prefer white wheat and only purchase red wheat if white is not available or red wheat price is discounted significantly. In 2005 we began to convert about half of the Hays program back to hard red wheat. As of 2011 we are now testing Hays developed hard reds in replicated yield tests in western Kansas.
Breeding objectives for hard winter wheats adapted to western Kansas include the development of white seeded varieties that have excellent bread baking characteristics as well as excellent noodle making characteristics. Noodle quality is very important to gaining market share in Asia. Control of major pests through host resistance is also a high priority for both red and white wheats.. Resistance to wheat streak mosaic, Triticum mosaic virus, soil-borne mosaic virrus, leaf rust, stripe rust and Hessian fly top the objective list.