Variety trials still play a crucial role in producers

Kenneth Gautreaux, Gould, Frances I., Blanchard, Tobie M.  |  11/9/2017 7:16:09 PM

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Agricultural seed companies and universities spend a great deal of effort and time developing new varieties and hybrids for commodities, such as corn, soybeans and wheat. Once those varieties and hybrids are developed, many researchers plant the new varieties in test plots across their states to evaluate performance on various soil types and environmental conditions.

LSU AgCenter scientists Dan Fromme and Boyd Padgett conduct extensive hybrid and variety trials for corn, grain sorghum, soybeans and wheat, with 39 locations distributed throughout Louisiana that examine more than 30 varieties and hybrids.

Fromme, the AgCenter state corn and cotton specialist, is responsible for corn and sorghum trials. For corn, he has 19 locations throughout 15 parishes examining 11 different hybrids.

Louisiana’s corn acreage has decreased this year, according to figures compiled by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service. Experts say Louisiana’s 2017 corn crop is 470,000 acres, down 50,000 acres from 2016.

Fromme is also working with grain sorghum trials at three locations. Interest in grain sorghum has waned considerably with continued low prices and the recent emergence of the sugarcane aphid, which has hampered harvest efforts. This year’s crop is estimated by NASS at approximately 12,000 acres, which would be the lowest acreage for sorghum since 1962.

Padgett took over the management of the soybean variety trials when state soybean specialist Ronnie Levy retired in April. New hire Todd Spivey assumed responsibility for the trials in July with 20 sites in 16 parishes. The majority of the plots are planted with Groups IV and Group V varieties with a few plots of Group III, early Group IV and dicamba-resistant varieties.

Soybeans remain Louisiana’s largest crop in terms of acreage. Louisiana has 1.2 million acres of soybeans, an increase of 60,000 acres from the 2016 crop, according to NASS.

With low wheat prices and scab disease decimating the crop for three years, Louisiana had its smallest wheat crop since record keeping began for wheat in 1955. It was estimated at 17,000 acres, with 15,000 acres harvested for grain.

Padgett is continuing wheat variety trials but said finding interested growers was tough because of difficult conditions. He had five locations in five parishes. Padgett reported looking at nine different varieties in 2016.

Craig Gautreaux

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