Testing Wheat and Feed Grain Varieties for Performance

Linda Benedict, Arceneaux, Kelly J., Regan, Ronald P., Mascagni, Jr., Henry J., Bell, Robert L., Harrison, Stephen A., Deloach, Mildred E.  |  11/1/2006 3:00:26 AM

Steven H. Moore, Stephen A. Harrison, Henry J. “Rick” Mascagni, William D. Caldwell, Ronald P. Regan, John E. Richard, Mildred E. Deloach, Kelly J. Arceneaux and Robert L. Bell

"First the Seed.” This phrase on the wall as you enter the Capitol in Washington, D.C., underscores the importance of the “seed” in agriculture. Choosing varieties for production is among the most important decisions farmers make each season. For maximum profit, producers must select adapted varieties that will perform well in their farm environments.

A long-standing program in the LSU AgCenter has been to test commercial seed varieties for performance in Louisiana environments. The result is that growers have unbiased scientific information upon which to make decisions.

Most variety tests are conducted in uniform, replicated, randomized trials. When tests are completed, varieties are recommended based primarily on their yield ranking compared with other varieties in the test. Usually a variety is recommended if it yields within 10 percent of the average yield of the three highest-yielding varieties for two consecutive years. If a variety has sufficient yield performance to be recommended but is known to be highly susceptible to a particular disease or possesses another highly negative characteristic, it may either not be recommended or flagged with a note identifying the particular weakness.

Testing Varieties
Corn hybrid tests are conducted on the Dean Lee Research Station at Alexandria, on the Northeast Research Station at St. Joseph, on the Macon Ridge Research Station at Winnsboro and on the Red River Research Station at Bossier City. Data targeted for collection include plant population, plant height, ear height, shuck cover, lodging (the propensity to fall over), grain test weight, moisture and yield.

Grain sorghum tests are conducted on the Central Research Station at Baton Rouge, the Rice Research Station at Crowley and on the Dean Lee, Northeast, Macon Ridge and Red River research stations. Data targeted for collection include heading date, head exertion (distance between flag leaf and base of head), head type (compaction), plant height, lodging, bird damage, grain test weight, moisture and yield.

Wheat variety tests are conducted on the Iberia Research Station at Jeanerette and on the Dean Lee, Northeast, Macon Ridge, Red River and Rice research stations. Data targeted for collection include heading date, plant height, lodging, bird damage, grain test weight and yield. Incident disease is also rated, including leaf rust, stripe rust, septoria and fusarium head blight.

Oat variety tests are conducted on the Macon Ridge, Red River and Central research stations. Data targeted for collection include heading date, plant height, lodging, crown rust, grain test weight and yield.

Using Performance Data
There are at least three steps to consider in no particular order in choosing a variety for production using results from LSU AgCenter performance trials. The first step is to examine yield performance in an environment similar to that where the variety will be produced. This usually means matching soil types and geographical proximity. For example, a producer growing corn on a clay soil in Tensas Parish would give most weight to yield performance in the clay test at the Northeast Research Station at St. Joseph.

The second step is to consider yield stability. This characteristic measures the consistency of performance of a variety across a range of environments. This means that relative to other varieties in the tests, the variety yields consistently well when rainfall, temperature, soil or other environmental conditions vary. When using data from AgCenter variety tests, a quick-and-easy determination of yield stability may be made by simply noting the number of locations where the variety is recommended. This means the variety has performed in the highest percentage of varieties at those locations. For example, a wheat variety recommended for all northern and southern locations has higher yield stability than a variety recommended at only one or two locations.

The third step is to consider agronomic and pest-resistance characteristics important in the production system where the variety will be produced. Experience comes into play here. If, for example, lodging is a chronic problem, then lodging resistance is important. Resistance to particular disease and insect pests may also be vital. Individual commodity variety testing programs each season measure these and other traits considered important criteria for the performance of that crop.

Yield and agronomic performance of varieties tested in each commodity are published on the AgCenter's Web site. Select “crops & livestock,” then the commodity for which you want information. Then choose “varieties and recommendations” to view data for the current year.

In addition, growers may obtain publications listing recommended varieties from their local parish extension offices.

Acknowledgment: Louisiana Soybean and Grain Research and Promotion Board

(This article was published in the fall 2006 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)
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