LSU AgCenter researchers’ hybrid and variety trials provide important services to Louisiana farmers and growers as well as to crop consultants and commercial seed and plant companies. From corn and cotton to vegetables and ornamental landscape plants, evaluations of growing plants help growers make informed decisions on what they plant. Trial locations include research stations as well as off-station sites in cooperators’ fields.
Many of the trials include seeds and plants from commercial companies that pay a fee for each variety or hybrid in the trial. Results are reported in annual publications or online and presented at producer meetings.
Dan Fromme, state specialist for corn, cotton and grain sorghum, oversees trials for 45 to 60 cotton varieties, 45 to 55 corn hybrids and 15 to 30 grain sorghum hybrids every year. Corn evaluations include yield, test weight, percent grain moisture at harvest, final plant population, mid-silk date, plant height, ear height, husk cover rating and percent lodging. Cotton evaluations include lint yield, gin turnout and fiber quality. Grain sorghum evaluations include yield, test weight, percent grain moisture, heading date, final plant height, head type, head exertion rating and percent lodging. Fromme’s trial locations include several research stations.
State forage specialist Wink Alison conducts yearly trials on annual ryegrass and small grains, primarily oats, cereal rye and triticale. Clover and bermudagrass varieties are occasionally added. His trials generally include about 40 entries in the annual ryegrass trials and 10 to 15 entries of small grains. About 30 to 40 percent of the ryegrass varieties and 50 percent of the small grain entries are experimental lines and not commercially available varieties. The trials, conducted at research stations, are evaluations limited to forage yield for the benefit of livestock producers and plant breeders.
AgCenter researcher Boyd Padgett is responsible for wheat, oat and soybean trials. Trials this year included 80 wheat varieties and 34 oat varieties in tests at research stations. Evaluations include yield, seed quality and disease resistance as well as lodging (falling over) and general physical characteristics. Soybean trials include 131 varieties evaluated on research stations and 26 varieties in maturity groups III, IV and V evaluated in cooperators’ fields at 19 locations. Evaluators look at yield, seed quality, disease resistance and physical characteristics as well as how varieties in different maturity classes react to environmental factors.
State sugarcane specialist Kenneth Gravois says approximately 20 sugarcane varieties are evaluated at the Sugar Research Station in plantcane, first stubble, second stubble and third stubble crops in a four-year crop cycle. Measurements include biomass (tons of cane per acre), sucrose content (pounds of sugar per ton of cane) and sugar yield (pounds of sugar per acre). Breeders and researchers take notes on diseases, insect damage, wind breakage, the resistance to falling over and ability to withstand subfreezing temperatures in cases when a freeze has occurred. Trials are conducted cooperatively by personnel from the AgCenter, U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service and the American Sugar Cane League in the sugarcane-growing areas along the Mississippi River, Bayou Lafourche, Bayou Teche and in western and north Louisiana.
AgCenter rice breeder Adam Famoso coordinates rice yield plot trials, which this year will have about 8,000 plots, half of which will be at the H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station and half in cooperators’ fields and include preliminary and advanced lines. Advanced yield trials consist of 80 entries in eight locations in Louisiana. State rice specialist Dustin Harrell assists with advanced yield evaluations by including these lines in three off-station locations in central and north Louisiana. Hybrid rice breeder Jim Oard will have five off-station locations on farmers’ fields this year, and Oard coordinates with Famoso to maximize efficiency. Advanced hybrid lines are also grown in the Uniform Regional Nursery in a cooperative effort among rice breeders in Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, Mississippi and Missouri, who submit their best lines for comparison “so we get good information on how they perform across the Southern rice belt,” Oard says.
Commercial ornamental horticulture specialist Jeb Fields oversees ornamental variety trials at the Hammond Research Station. The primarily focus is on crops with aesthetic value, including bedding plants, shrubs and trees. Annual bedding plants are generally evaluated for only one or two years, while perennials, shrubs and trees have longer-term trials that span three to five years. Fields annually evaluates from 200 to 270 new varieties, some of which are industry-sponsored, breeder-paid or grant-funded. Plants are evaluated for overall quality, establishment, growth rate and vigor, pest and disease resistance, aesthetics, bloom quality, bloom count and reblooming. For trees, shrubs and perennials, he looks at cold hardiness, cool-season color, and heat and drought tolerance.
Aubrey Hymel, landscape supervisor at the Botanic Gardens at Burden, oversees the All America Selections trials, including 15 to 20 varieties of ornamental annuals and a few herbaceous perennials each year. She bases evaluations on greenhouse and landscape performance as well as attributes like size, color, uniformity and uniqueness.
Rick Bogren is a professor in LSU AgCenter Communications and associate editor of Louisiana Agriculture. (This article appears in the spring 2019 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)
These research stations host hybrid and variety trials:
Dean Lee Research & Extension Center at Alexandria includes cotton, corn, grain sorghum, wheat, soybeans and oats.
Macon Ridge Research Station at Winnsboro includes cotton, corn, grain sorghum, forages, wheat, soybeans and oats.
Northeast Research Station at St. Joseph includes cotton, corn, grain sorghum, wheat and soybeans.
Red River Research Station at Bossier City includes cotton, corn, grain sorghum, wheat, soybeans and oats.
H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station at Crowley includes rice, grain sorghum, wheat and soybeans.
Central Station at Baton Rouge includes grain sorghum, wheat, soybeans and oats.
Southeast Research Station at Franklinton includes forages.
Iberia Research Station at New Iberia includes forages, wheat and soybeans.
Sugar Research Station at St. Gabriel includes sugarcane.
Hammond Research Station at Hammond includes annual bedding plants, perennials, shrubs and trees.
Botanic Gardens at Burden at Baton Rouge includes ornamental annuals, herbaceous perennials, vegetables and roses.