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Farmers’ needs drive variety trends

Q & A with an expert

Q: What makes the biggest little seed on the block?

A: New grain varieties are constantly entering the marketplace. These varieties bring new innovations including updated disease resistance and yield improvements. But what makes certain varieties stand out over others and their names well known? It is the balance of all desired traits into varieties that perform consistently across diverse situations. Not an easy feat by any stretch, but each variety that comes down the pipeline desires to be the biggest and best on the market.

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New varieties start from a diverse genetic pool allowing for specific choices of desired characteristics. Trends in varieties must adapt to the characteristics most desired by growers, which change as their needs change. Some examples of variety trends tailored to meet growers’ needs include the following:

  • Current changes in harvest styles, with increased acres being straight cut, have led to breeding more semi-dwarf wheat varieties and shorter-stature barley and oats. Shorter stature helps to combat lodging issues, which lead to yield loss if the plant cannot support the seed head under environmental or higher fertility.
  • Canola is trending to be bred with pod shatter and harvest management features, which ease the pressure of swath timing and ability to straight cut.
  • Pulse crops, such as peas or lentils, have desired traits to remain upright for ease of harvestability with breeding focus around improved vine strength and disease resistance.

Keeping ahead of disease in fields is important. The breeding of the newest disease packages into varieties will allow for preventive disease management and staying ahead of resistance. This is especially important in canola varieties with respect to clubroot and blackleg.

Top cereal varieties are those with increased resistance to leaf and head diseases. Pea yields are challenged by disease, specifically with aphanomyces, which is a soil-borne disease that has long life in the soil. The creation of a resistant variety would be a game changer in the pea seed market.

Varieties that can encompass trends in desired characteristics are the seeds that will be at the top of both acres and minds for many growing seasons.

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