What seed to buy?

Be careful with coffee shop talk and field to field comparisons when considering which variety or system to choose. There are many variables from field to field — including soil characteristics, seed date and rate, moisture, frost, residual fertilizer, weed competition and insects — that can distort yield and profit comparisons, even if the same grower managed each field.

Growers considering a new variety or a new system are encouraged to try it on a small portion of their acres before converting the whole farm. Growers who test new varieties on some of their acres each year achieve two goals: They can assess the potential agronomic benefits of new technology, such as yield advancements or improved disease tolerance, while maintaining some performance predictability by seeding the rest of the farm to varieties known to work well for them.

To help growers make the right choice, the Canola Performance Trial data, which compares new varieties against current industry leaders in small and field scale plots, will be released within the next few weeks in print and on the Canola Council of Canada website. Click here for background information on the Canola Performance Trials for 2011.

For growers eager to make early booking decisions, here are some other sources for variety performance information:

WCC/RRC. Seed registration trial data from the Western Canada Canola/Rapeseed Recommending Committee compares yield, maturity, lodging, height and blackleg ratings. Growers can get a summary based on first year private and second year public data. Contact Raymond Gadoua of the Canola Council of Canada at gadouar@canolacouncil.org or 306-683-2403 and he can email the summary. Gadoua reminds growers that rarely would any of these cultivars have been tested in the exact same set of head to head trials.

Crop insurance. Alberta and Manitoba publish summaries of crop insurance yield reports by variety and zone. Read the 2011 editions online: Alberta Manitoba. These provide average yields over all acres of each variety grown, but are based on grower responses, are field by field, and do not include other data such as maturity, lodging and disease resistance. The 2012 editions come out in February or March.

Local research groups. Some provincial commodity groups or local grower-directed research groups do variety comparisons. Check if yours  conducted any trials that would be relevant to your typical growing conditions.

Seed company data. Seed companies often run their own variety trials and will post results on their own websites. Here are some companies to check: Bayer CropScience, Monsanto, Pioneer Hi-Bred, Viterra, Cargill, Dow AgroSciences, DL seeds, Canterra, FP Genetics and SeCan. Some local seed suppliers also have their own branded varieties and may have performance comparison data.

Retail trials. Many independent and line companies run their own yield trials. See your local retailer for results.

Listen to CCC senior agronomy specialist Doug Moisey talk about what to look for in a new variety.