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Variety trials provide valuable data

Who do you trust? When it comes to choosing the right hybrid or variety to plant on your farm, the answer to that question may be your state Extension service or land-grant university.

“Variety trials are not to tell you what to plant, but what not to plant,” says Don Boquet, an agronomist with the LSU AgCenter's Macon Ridge Research Station. “We can't tell you the single-best variety. We can, however, identify several top varieties that will do well in any given year. We can also tell you what varieties not to plant.”

While factors such as soil type, irrigation and pest management play critical roles in production success, area agronomist says variety selection and planting data are potentially the two most critical components in forecasting a successful harvest.

State variety trials are conducted annually by land-grant universities to evaluate both yield and agronomic performance of the various varieties and hybrids commercially available or soon to be released.

To insure that their states' growers remain competitive in the U.S. and global textile markets, university researchers throughout the Mid-South test and evaluate corn hybrids, and cotton, soybean, and rice varieties on a continual basis at on-farm test locations that represent soil and climatic conditions across the corresponding crop-producing areas of the states.

David Lanclos, soybean and corn specialist for the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service, says crop specialists in his state generally recommend about one-fourth of the entries in state variety trials to producers.

Those trials, he says, serve as unbiased data for growers. “Selecting the right variety for your farm can make a big difference in yield potential. Growers should always check disease packages and results from state variety trials before finalizing their variety selections.”

According to the LSU AgCenter, varieties or hybrids included on the state's recommended list have been tested for a minimum of two years, have exhibited acceptable agronomic traits, and have yielded within 90 percent of the top three comparable varieties at that testing location.

Steve Moore, an agronomist with the LSU AgCenter's Dean Lee Research Station, says it's critical that growers pay attention to their states' unbiased data on available varieties, especially with the flood of transgenic varieties and hybrids into the commercial seed market in recent years.

When “choosing the best from the rest,” Moore advises growers to consider three key factors in variety selection: location, yield stability, and variety traits.

“Take a close look at a variety or hybrid's performance at either the location closest to you or at the test location with the most similar soil type. Then, get an idea of yield stability by adding up the number of locations where that hybrid or variety is recommended. The higher the number, the better the yield stability,” he says. “In addition, look at the agronomic or resistance factors of your top variety choices. Choose a variety or hybrid based on which traits or characteristics will pay off for you on your farm.”

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