How to Utilize Data When Selecting Seed Varieties

-

Ernie Nycholat

Manager of Agronomic Services , Nutrien Ag Solutions

More articles by Ernie Nycholat

For many growers these days, it’s important to get accurate, current and regional information on new seed varieties in order to stay competitive.

There are a lot of places growers can find data to help inform their seed-buying decisions, as government agencies, universities, industry groups and seed companies are all good sources of variety information.

With so many options to consider, how do growers know what’s the best way to get the seed information they need?

My advice is to consider the big picture first.

Looking at data from third-party sources, such as the Canola Performance Trials and the Alberta Regional Variety Trials for cereal and pulse crops, is a great place to start. The Alberta Seed Guidedoes an excellent job of packaging this information, and many growers consider it their go-to source for finding out what seed varieties offer in terms of yield, agronomic and pest/disease resistance attributes.

This information is particularly useful, not only because it’s unbiased, but because the field trials are often conducted over a wide area. You’ll see performance data for a variety, but you may also get a sense of the consistency of the trial results and how well that variety performs under different conditions.

Of course, seed companies also provide a lot of data, and other resources such as Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and university Ag programs can be very useful as well when seeking out variety information.

Once you’ve completed your variety research, the next step is to apply this data to your own situation. No two farms are alike, so it’s important that any varieties you select mesh with your operation.

Yield is always a key consideration when choosing a seed variety, but depending on where you farm, it may not be the most important. Soil types and local growing conditions need to be taken into account, as well as which weeds, insects and diseases pose the greatest threats in your area and if you have any weed or pest resistance issues in your geography. For instance, midge tolerant wheat varieties will only be top of your list if midge is a concern for you.

There also needs to be a match with your farming system, and other factors such as maturity, plant height, standability and the end-use qualities you’re seeking in your crop are important considerations as well.

When it comes to making a final decision about which variety to choose, I believe local input is invaluable. This is where discussions with your neighbours, agronomist, ag retailer and seed grower come in.

It’s really important to talk to everyone, particularly if you’re fortunate to have a trusted advisor you rely on — ask questions about new varieties you may be considering and whether they’re a good fit for your farm. It’s a conversation that’s well worth the time.