All News

Considering a New Cereal Variety?

Of the many resources available to farmers in Manitoba, Seed Manitoba may be one of the most valuable. When used in combination with information from seed growers, neighbors, agronomists and other experts, the seed guide can help farmers pick a variety that will perform under local growing conditions. Seed Manitoba provides information on variety performance under a wide range of growing conditions in Manitoba.

When selecting a new variety, of course yield is most likely the first thing to come to mind. No doubt, yield should be high on the list of considerations, but the discussion shouldn’t end there. In Western Canada, we have incredible genetics coming out of our breeding programs, both public and private. It’s almost expected that yield will be there. So, what should farmers consider next? Protection of grade is important. Farmers should consider the disease package, lodging resistance & sprouting resistance, and days to maturity when selecting a new variety for their farm, to protect both yield and quality of their crop.

Disease

At the Manitoba Crop Variety Evaluation Trials (MCVET), no fungicides are applied. The purpose of this is to get a true understanding of the genetic potential of each variety. All the disease ratings provided in the seed guide are based on variety registration data, which is collected from inoculated disease nurseries across Western Canada. It’s important to note that the disease ratings provided in the seed guide are not set in stone. Ratings may change as pathogens adapt and genetic resistance breaks down over time. While foliar fungicide application is common, if you find that your time is stretched thin during the fungicide spraying window, it’s recommended that you select a variety with a good disease package, as opposed to the top yielder.

Unfortunately, farmers in Manitoba must deal with managing Fusarium Head Blight (FHB) in their cereal crops. Something to keep in mind, is that under severe disease pressure, all varieties will have some level of infection. A moderately resistant (MR) rating does not mean that variety is nearly immune. However, selecting a variety with a good FHB resistance rating will mitigate some risk. Seed should also be tested for presence of FHB and treated with a seed treatment if necessary.

Maturity

If it makes sense logistically on your farm, consider planting multiple varieties with varying maturities. This is a great way to spread out risk and optimize harvest timing. Early-maturing varieties can also result in a yield benefit, especially if the grain filling period is hot and dry. In Seed Manitoba, maturity ratings are reported as a value plus or minus 99 days.

Lodging and Sprouting

Both plant height and lodging resistance are key factors in keeping the crop standing in high-yielding environments, especially when applying high rates of N. If you find that a taller variety is most suited to your local environment, it may be worth it to consider a plant growth regulator (PGR), to aid in risk mitigation against lodging. The seed guide also outlines lodging resistance ratings for each variety. Harvest 2019 brought many challenges to farmers in Manitoba, one of which was pre-harvest sprouting. A variety with a poor (P) rating to pre-harvest sprouting is more likely to sprout under cool, wet growing conditions. While selection of a variety with either a good (G) or very good (VG) PHS rating is a way to spread out risk, all varieties will sustain sprouting damage and reduction in falling number if exposed to long periods of cool, wet weather.

Although many things need to be considered when planning for the upcoming growing season, variety selection is a simple and cost-effective way to maximize production profitability and is one of the few things that farmers can control.

The Manitoba Crop Alliance (MCA) is proud to provide funding and data (for corn and sunflowers) to the MCVET trials.