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Varieties of Grain Crops

Each year, the seed in­dustry, producers, breeders and government collaborate to conduct regional testing of crop varieties to provide agronomic performance information un­der different agro-climatic conditions. Industry involvement includes the SeCan Association, the Saskatchewan Seed Growers Association, Saskatchewan Wheat, Barley and Oat Development Commissions, Sask Flax and Saskatchewan Pulse Growers. Canola performance trials are funded through Alberta Canola Pro­ducers Commission, Saskatchewan Canola Development Commission (SaskCanola) and the Manitoba Canola Growers Association. An entry fee system is used, in which variety owners or companies with the distribu­tion rights to a particular variety pay a portion of the cost of having the variety tested.

Researchers conduct the trials at the Crop Devel­opment Centre, the University of Saskatch­ewan, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada re­search stations, provincial AgriARM sites and the Canada-Saskatchewan Irrigation Diversifi­cation Centre. These crop coordinators manage the data and provide expertise for their respective crops.

The results from all variety trials of all crop kinds tested are reviewed by the Saskatche­wan Advisory Council on Grain Crops (SAC­GC) to ensure that information published is based on sound scientific principles. The SACGC also updates disease and other agronomic information and approves the data prior to inclusion in this publication.

Relative Yield of Varieties

Relative yield is the best estimate of expected yield advantage in the areas indicated. It is the yield of one variety ex­pressed as a percentage of the check variety. Yields obtained in these trials are not identical to those obtained in commercial production. However, the relative ranking of these variet­ies compared to the check variety, obtained over a number of years at several locations, would remain the same regardless of whether the grain yield was measured in small plots or large-scale fields.

Grain yield is a function of genetic and non-genetic factors. Variety trials are de­signed to measure yield differences due to genetic causes. It is important to minimize variability due to non-genetic factors such as moisture, temperature, transpiration, weeds, diseases, insects and other factors. Experimental de­sign uses replication (repeated plantings of the varieties) and randomization (the position of the varieties within the test is assigned by chance) to estimate the precision with which the genetic factors can be measured.

Each year, variety trials are conducted using uniform protocols and standard check varieties. Data is collect­ed from as many sites as are available and statistically analyzed. Results in the varieties of grain crops publica­tion are aggregated over a number of years and on an area basis for most crops.

Considerations for New Variety Selection

There are various factors to consider when selecting a new variety and it all depends on what your main priority is. Factors to con­sider include:

  • Market – Identify your target market and make sure the variety selected matches the specifications and quality expected by your buyers, such as seed size, colour, functionality and other attributes.
  • Maturity – Identify realistic expectations on maturity needed to achieve optimum yield and quality in your region.
  • Disease resistance – Select varieties with better resistance for high-risk areas or fields. Resistance helps with disease management, but may or may not reduce the reliance on fungicide application.
  • Herbicide tolerance – Consider the weeds or volunteers that may be present in the field to determine if herbicide-tolerant options are a good choice.
  • Seed size – If seed size does not affect the market choice, then consider the seeding costs of the variety. Smaller-seeded varieties are usually cheaper to seed and have fewer production issues with plugging seeding equipment and other operations. Faba beans are a good example where seed size may be an important consideration.
  • Crop growth habit and other physiological factors – Factors such as growth habit (determinate or indeterminate), plant height, stand­ability, harvest management and quality parameters such as resistance to sprouting, seed coat breakage and bleaching.
  • Yield – This is often the highest priority, as it directly relates to the ultimate goal of net return. In some cases, the advantages and higher performance of new varieties may not necessarily translate into higher yield, due to environment or management practices. If all other factors have been considered then use yield potential as the deciding factor.

The most recent version of the Saskatchewan Varieties of Grain Crops publication is available for download.

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