2018 Nebraska Variety Testing Summary and Fall Seed Guide

Wheat variety trials
Winter wheat variety trials are conducted across the state to evaluate yield, protein, and weight of different varieties under different conditions.

2018 Nebraska Variety Testing Summary and Fall Seed Guide August 30, 2018

The Nebraska Extension Fall Seed Guide for 2018 is now available in the Variety Testing section of CropWatch. It offers information on wheat as well as barley and triticale. The print copy should be available soon from the UNL Marketplace.

The 2018 wheat crop variety testing trials were conducted at 14 rainfed and two irrigated sites across the state. Data in the seed guide is from all four sites in the southeast, one site in south central, three rainfed sites in west central, and one rainfed and one irrigated site in the Panhandle. Two rainfed sites in the west central area were lost to hail damage. Three rainfed sites in the Panhandle and an irrigated trial in west central were lost to hail and other problems.

Notable during the 2018 wheat crop season were delayed plantings in southeast and west central Nebraska due to wet field conditions. Dry spells that followed wet planting conditions in some places created soil surface sealing, resulting in uneven emergence. Some places experienced unusually cold temperatures after thawing. In other places, drought conditions extended or coincided with critical crop growth stages such as flowering. In eastern Nebraska, the effect of drought was exasperated by extremely high temperatures complicating pollination and seed formation.

Disease conditions such as leaf streak, rust, and head blights were observed at varying levels at each site. Site selection and conscious distribution of testing sites to represent unique environments made it possible to cover diverse environment and farming systems. Conscious effort was made to test varieties under different soil types and a range of expected precipitations and management conditions. A table in the 2018 Seed Guide details site information on soil type, previous crop, tillage type and methods, rate and type of fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides used. Growers are encouraged to reference the table to identify testing sites that are similar to the farm of interest. For variety selection, individual variety performance data posted on cropwatch.unl.edu/winter-wheat-variety-test-results will be a good starting point.

Diversity of Traits Leads to Excellent Options

The genetics portfolio for the 2018 trials included a greater diversity than previously used of varieties and experimental lines from the public and the private industry breeding programs. As usual, most of the varieties and experimental lines tested originated from the UNL wheat breeding program. Some varieties originated from public breeding programs of neighboring states. Six private companies participated in the test; however, the majority of private company entries were from Limagrain Cereal Seeds, Agripro-Syngenta, and WesBred

Diversity of traits has made it possible to have a number of excellent varieties from which Nebraska farmers can choose. For example, average grain yield for a site ranged from 47 to 99 bu/ac in the southeast, 62 bu/ac in south central, 66 to 84 bu/ac in west central and 62 bu/ac in the Panhandle. The average yield for the irrigated plots was 94 bu/ac.

At two sites the maximum yield was 110 bu/ac and at one dryland site it was 100 bu/ac. The Box Butte County irrigated site had a maximum yield of 102 bu/ac. The range in average yield and potential attainable yield (maximum yield) shows level of diversity in site conditions, management, and the traits available. High yield and consistency in the high yield range indicates the yielding quality of varieties available to grow. 

It is important to be mindful that variety performance at one location or during one season is not a good indicator of how the variety will necessarily perform in the future. Evaluating variety performance data across multiple testing locations within a region or across multiple years will provide a better picture of performance stability for a given trait such as yield or protein. Except for the South Central region, all testing regions have multiple testing sites. Data are available for each region for economically important traits: grain yield, bushel weight, grain protein, and seed size.

Using Variety Data for Your Seed Selections

Regional variety performance for two years, three years, and four years are presented. It is our policy to test a variety for a minimum of three years before considering the variety for recommendation in Nebraska. Three-year average performance mean that included 2018 results is shown at UNL Crop Variety and Hybrid Testing Program 2018 Variety Test Results web site. The seed guide has additional tables that show the corresponding two-year average, four-year average, and the mean performance data for the region. As stated earlier, every year is different. So I cannot stress enough the importance of looking at multi-year average performance before deciding to choose or recommend a variety for production. Agronomy Professor P. Stephen Baenziger has a concise summary with additional variety information for Nebraska in this wheat edition of CropWatch.

Finally, use the seed guide to choose a reasonable number of best performing varieties tested at the location closest to your farm. Evaluate whether the management applied is economical in relation to your circumstances and decide which varieties look fitting to your production objective. Expand your evaluation to the regional test locations, keeping in mind your management and production environment, especially rainfall. Then evaluate the strength of the varieties for constancy in performance, particularly yielding ability under different management and environment (site and year). This may be repeated for the statewide testing. The disease and agronomic characteristic table is updated annually and is a valuable resource in judging the selected varieties for disease reaction.

Remember to diversify. There is security in numbers. If possible, choose more than one variety to grow.