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Think Long-Term With Variety Selection

It’s never a good idea to try something as important as a new variety on a large-scale right off the hop, but it’s also not a great idea to seed one variety from one end of the farm to the other. There are good reasons, however, to seed two to three varieties of each crop type and to incorporate new varieties over time.

“Yield potential is typically the first thing that springs to mind when choosing a new variety, but it shouldn’t be,” says Todd Hyra, SeCan’s business manager for western Canada. That’s because yield is the result of several other factors, not just the variety’s genetic potential.

Hyra says when choosing a wheat variety pinpointing the crop’s eventual home and market opportunities should be considered first. Not all wheat varieties are suited for the bread-making market, and a farm’s proximity to ethanol plants or feedlots might make some lower quality but higher yielding varieties more attractive and vice versa.

“If yield were all there was to consider, everyone would grow AC Sadash,” Hyra says. “It’s a soft white wheat with excellent yield potential, but it matures four days later than a CWRS type, can sprout and is really only used in a limited cookie or ethanol market.”

THE BEST FIT

Marketing options in hand, each grower needs to determine their farm’s biggest limiting factor. “For many farmers, diseases such as fusarium head blight or rust are going to be the number one factor in variety choice,” he says. “There are some high yielding varieties that just aren’t an option for certain areas. For example, Superb just doesn’t have the disease package for Manitoba, but out west it does very well,” Hyra says.

For lentils, disease resistance is also the number one factor driving variety choice. Barry Rapp, agronomy and seed manager with Crop Production Services Canada at Regina, Sask., says that even with fungicide options for ascochyta and anthracnose, variety tolerance is still the best line of defense against the diseases. “If you have a tolerant and non-tolerant variety and spray them both, you’ll still end up with more disease in the non-tolerant variety,” he says

Rapp says that it’s also best to talk to your buyers while making the decision on which type, size or variety of lentil to grow. “If you’re within five or 10 miles of a processor and they have a preferred type or size of lentil, it might be best to choose a variety with them in mind as opposed to having to truck the crop 50 miles away,” he says, noting that the long-term savings will likely balance any yield compromise made in the variety choice.

RISK MANAGEMENT

Hyra says that in his twenty years in the seed business, he’s never seen a perfect variety. What he does see, however are good fits for each farm, and that including two or three wheat varieties can certainly help manage risk.

“Choosing varieties with slightly different maturities can help spread out weather risk, and choosing something with a bit different straw strength or disease package helps manage quality risk and yield potential,” Hyra says.

With an eye on profit, Hyra says that growing a few wheat varieties that compliment each other in terms of quality and yield may result in blending opportunities. “If you’ve got some that comes off as a No. 2 but managed a No. 1 with another variety, if gives you blending power you may not have had with only one variety,” he says.

IN-CROP MANAGEMENT

Rapp says that after disease considerations, lentil growers need to weigh the benefits and risks of the growth characteristics of a variety. Those that have lower disease pressure might choose a taller variety because of increased competitiveness, but taller lentils produce more vegetation — an issue for those with heavy disease pressure. “If you’re running a tight rotation or are worried about disease taller varieties may not be an option,” he says.

There’s also field history to consider when changing over from one lentil type to another. “Volunteer red lentils in greens is a real problem and more of an issue than the other way around,” he says. Those looking to decide between Clearfield type and conventional lines need to look at the individual field’s weed spectrum and Group 2 history of the field to determine suitability.

Harvest management is, at times, glossed over, however Hyra says that those who value a fast, straight-cut harvest with limited to no straw management required have to make a point of choosing well-suited varieties.

Moving away from a tried and true variety, no matter what the crop, should be done on a small-scale and over time, which isn’t a tough sell. For the most part, wheat growers can take some time to adopt new varieties and do so only when a remarkable new variety comes along. AC Barrie has held Manitoba’s number one spot for nearly 15 years, a feat Hyra attributes to its fusarium head blight tolerance. “It’s been tough to replace Barrie, but new varieties — AC Kane, Glenn and Waskada have similar ratings and good agronomics,” he says.

Lentil growers are more likely to try new varieties, Rapp says, partially because of how the seed grower network is set up in Saskatchewan. “Most lentil growers have a seed grower nearby who will have two years or more experience growing the new variety,” Rapp says. “Much of the risk has been taken on by the seed grower.” The option to save seed to grow the next year makes it easier to incorporate new varieties, too, he says.

Growers looking to try new genetics need to seed about 80 acres to really get a sense of the yield and management required, however Rapp says in practice, it’s usually more than that. Depending on your farm set up, field size or seeder size, seeding only 80 acres might be too tedious, and it’s more likely to see 160 or 320 acres go in, he says, which carries some production risk.

Lyndsey Smith is editor of Grainews.

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