Understanding how different crop varieties may react to various management practices or situations is something that doesn’t seem to get enough attention. We often hear about the “best” varieties, but how are they performing in one situation compared to another or under a different product application? Here are a two reasons building an understanding of varieties’ tendencies can work to your advantage when planning next year’s crop.
Disease Packages & Fungicide Response: Disease packages vary by variety, yet we constantly hear about yield bumps from fungicide ‘x’ on wheat, or we ponder why our neighbour got a bigger bump in yield from his fungicide even though we used the same one at the same stage. Often times in these comparisons class of wheat doesn’t even get mentioned, let alone variety which can actually have a huge impact. If I have a variety, lets say, AC Goodeve VB which is rated ‘very poor’ in Saskatchewan for fusarium headblight (FHB) resistance and my neighbour has a variety such as AC Carberry which is rated ‘good’ in Saskatchewan, assuming everything else is the same and assuming FHB pressure; which variety is likely to have the bigger yield bump from a FHB fungicide? Goodeve VB would be the likely answer.
Go big or go for quality: The past couple years have brought more interest in growing big cereal crops and people ask for the highest yielding cereal variety out there, but is this always the best question to ask? I would argue not always. The couple things I would be looking at are lodging susceptibility and protein. If you have a good yielding variety that is prone to lodging the chances of getting a crop with hundreds of pounds of fertilizer thrown at it to keep its legs under it aren’t exactly going to be on your side. I’d opt for the variety that may be considered ‘lower yielding’, but is a strong stander because it doesn’t matter how many seeds are on a head if you can’t harvest it!
High protein often yields a premium at the elevator, but when it comes to yield potential and protein potential the two are intertwined. A variety typically with a higher protein potential, will generally have a lower yield potential. Some work being done has preliminarily showed that if you have a protein drop of 0.5%, you may see a yield bump of somewhere around 10% and vice versa. This discussion always brings me back to barley where the consensus is that AC Metcalfe is a higher protein variety vs. something like CDC Copeland, so I would expect more input response yield-wise with a variety like Copeland.
There are a number of other things one can draw upon when looking in your Provincial Seed Guide on top of the few things I mentioned here. In plant breeding you can’t always have the best of all the worlds, it is a teeter totter trying to balance quality, yields, disease, protein etc. so we are constantly giving up yield for protection from other issues we may see arise.