Seed variety trials deliver valuable information to Saskatchewan producers
By Dallas Carpenter
When you are investing in a grain variety for your farm, you want to ensure you are getting a variety that yields well, can withstand environmental stresses, and is resistant or tolerant to pests and diseases in your area.
To provide Saskatchewan farmers with unbiased data, the Saskatchewan Variety Performance Group (SVPG) was formed to test and report on commercially available varieties of cereal crops and flax. Formed in 2006, the SVPG is an informal group made up of stakeholders who are interested in post-registration, variety performance testing in Saskatchewan.
SVPG members include the Saskatchewan Wheat, Barley, Oats and Flax Development Commissions, the Saskatchewan Seed Growers Association, and the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture. SVPG collaborators include Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the University of Saskatchewan’s Crop Development Centre, Agri-ARM sites, Nutrien and private research companies.
“SVPG is very fortunate to have excellent collaborators across the province that grow the trials and collect the data on SVPG crops,” says Mitchell Japp, Provincial Cereals Specialist with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture. “SVPG has 18 locations growing one or more SVPG crop. In recent years, SVPG has reached out to neighbouring provinces to jointly collect data at locations very near the border in areas where SVPG identified a gap in testing. Two of the 18 sites are outside of Saskatchewan.”
SVPG’s mandate includes testing on spring wheat, durum, barley, oats, flax, fall rye and triticale. The data collected from these trials is entered into the annual publications Varieties of Grain Crops and SaskSeed Guide. These publications are valuable resources for producers and seed growers who are looking for unbiased comparisons of variety data.
Varieties are submitted for testing by either a plant breeder or the seed company that markets the variety. Once entered, varieties are tested for five years. After that, they may be retained in the SaskSeed Guide for several years.
“This is why it is important to make any comparisons directly to the check variety,” explains Japp. “Unfortunately, it is neither practical nor feasible to test all varieties each year. Including a check variety that is consistent for many years allows growers to make comparisons to a variety that is commonly grown throughout the province.”
The agronomic and disease data of wheat varieties will be enhanced thanks to a recently-undertaken project focused on wheat. In this project, SVPG collects additional data on priority traits including maturity, height, lodging, protein, test weight, thousand-kernel weight and wheat midge damage, providing farmers with more productive information on farming decisions.
“So far, the most notable change has been the revision of the lodging ratings,” says Japp of the new variety trials. “The additional data collected on lodging provided enough evidence to support changing the lodging ratings to be more reflective of what was happening in the field.”
With the support of Sask Wheat, SVPG has been able to continue to collect the additional data for wheat and durum to make the data in the SaskSeed Guide even more robust. The data from the SVPG is available in the 2019 SaskSeed Guide, which is available on saskseed.ca.