New Wheat Variety Released by Colorado State University Named After Colorado ’14er’

Note to Reporters: A fact sheet on Snowmass wheat and a photograph are available for download by visiting and clicking on the header of this release.

A new high-yielding variety of hard white winter wheat developed by the Colorado State University Agricultural Experiment Station has been released to the Colorado Wheat Research Foundation (CWRF). Named "Snowmass" in honor of one of Colorado’s 54 ‘14ers’ (mountains more than 14,000 feet in elevation), the new variety has shown high yields in Colorado and overall disease resistance.

Snowmass also demonstrated such superior mixing and baking quality characteristics that it was accepted into the CWRF Ultragrain Premium Program with ConAgra Mills. This program will pay producers a premium of 30 cents per bushel over the market price for the 2010 crop, plus a protein premium of up to 40 cents based on the protein content of the wheat. Snowmass is the second CSU-developed wheat to be accepted into the program. Thunder CL, released in 2009, was the first.

“The flour made from this wheat will be whole grain and used to make products with enhanced nutritional properties. ConAgra has very strict quality and agronomic standards for their Ultragrain product and it was quite an honor for Snowmass to be accepted into their grower program,” said wheat breeder Scott Haley, professor in the Soil and Crop Sciences Department at CSU.

Snowmass wheat will be used to make Ultragrain flour. Ultragrain is a100 percent whole wheat flour that combines the nutrition and benefits of whole grains with the finished recipe qualities of refined flour. “Ultragrain flour is transforming the grain based product industry supporting the development and growth of new consumer products like whole wheat white bread,” said John Bartels with ConAgra Mills. “Snowmass represents ConAgra’s ongoing effort to bring value to producers, manufactures and consumers.”


Whole grain white bread has seen a 14 percent annual increase in unit sales in the past year. As a comparison, the total fresh bread and rolls industry is down 2.5 percent in unit sales for the same time period.

CWRF President Randy Wilks said the premium program is beneficial to Colorado wheat farmers and to ConAgra. “It gives Colorado farmers an opportunity for increased revenue, and ConAgra a broader source of hard white wheat to draw from, with varieties that are superior in milling and baking qualities,” Wilks said.

“The release of this wheat is important to CSU because we are contributing to economic development, on the part of wheat producers in eastern Colorado and the processing industry as ConAgra will mill much of the flour of this wheat here in Colorado at their mill near Commerce City,” Haley said.

In several years of field testing throughout eastern Colorado, the Snowmass wheat variety has shown exceptional yield under dryland conditions, and excellent disease resistance, said Haley. Haley leads a team of researchers, including Extension entomologist Frank Peairs and Extension agronomist Jerry Johnson, which focuses on improving wheat varieties for Colorado’s farmers.

It took 10 years to develop Snowmass, Haley said, with the first cross-breeding taking place in 1999. CSU’s wheat breeding program has established itself as a dependable developer of new, productive wheat varieties for Colorado growers. In 2009, about 61 percent of all wheat acreage in Colorado was planted to varieties developed by CSU.

In an agreement between CSU, CWRF, and the Colorado Seed Growers Association, ownership and marketing rights of Snowmass were offered to the CWRF, and accepted on August 12. Snowmass is the 14th variety developed by CSU to be released to CWRF.

Snowmass may be grown and sold only as a class of certified seed by Colorado Seed Growers Association members licensed by CWRF. The foundation will obtain a certificate of plant variety protection for these new varieties under the federal Plant Variety Protection Act. Royalties paid to the foundation by certified seed growers from the sale of these varieties is returned to CSU to support continued wheat research and variety development.