A successful 2015 crop starts now as you finalize seed selections. Choosing the right varieties impacts your farm perhaps more than any other decision, which makes this task a critical one.
The data-driven world we live in both helps and hinders this selection process. Growers have plenty of data to determine which the highest-yielding product is in any given year. However, looking only at one data point, such as yield rank, might not reflect true performance of a product relative to its best placement and usage.
All the data we see this time of year make it challenging to separate relevant from irrelevant information. With careful analysis, we are better able to understand why a product did or did not meet expectations for the year so it can be precisely placed in the right field.
An equation to remember. Teasing out why a product excelled or failed is not always straightforward. Here’s one key equation to use when reviewing product performance: Genetics x Environment x Management = Yield Potential.
Yield is the most important phenotype, which is defined as any observable characteristic. Disease tolerance and lodging resistance also are highly valued but often overlooked during comparisons. As another example, a variety with genetics that favor lighter, well-drained soils might not perform well in a field with tight, wet clays, especially if the environment gives us plenty of rain. So also pay attention to how variety characteristics relate to environment and management.
Tips for analysis. Yield data from local and third-party plots can be helpful. But make sure the data used for comparisons reflect your farm’s situation closely and the information is statistically significant. Review key factors such as row width, planting date and soil productivity. As an example, bushier plants might do well in plots with wider rows, but perhaps you operate on narrow rows and favor a different plant type.
Keep in mind that plots often are highly managed. There are different management practices behind every field and yield at harvest. And with all that going into managing the crop, weather remains the biggest influencer of final yield potential. A windstorm or flood can change the entire outlook on the final performance of a product.
Finally, looking at “fair” comparisons is just as important. Plots with crops from a number of companies are most reliable when planted in order of relative maturity rather than by company. This helps reduce the chance that one grouping is placed in a poor area of the plot. You still can expect some variability because of differences in soil organic matter, cation-exchange capacity and even slight depressions in the soil surface where water can collect.
Use aggregated data that represents multiple locations and product factors that relate to your farms and fields. Pay attention to the details to help achieve smarter product selection and placement for next year.
Melissa McDonald is an agronomist with Mycogen Seeds. Direct any questions about analyzing data for seed selection to Melissa at firstname.lastname@example.org or to your trusted agronomic adviser.
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