With Transition to Panhandle, UNL Variety Testing Program Moves Beyond Winter Wheat
With a new home in western Nebraska, the University of Nebraska variety testing program is looking toward a future of growth, new and enhanced partnerships, and additional opportunities to conduct research relevant to Nebraska crop producers and food processors.
Led by Cody Creech, dryland cropping systems specialist, and Amanda Easterly, research assistant professor, the program is in its second year at its new location, the High Plains Agricultural Laboratory near Sidney.
The move into the Dryland Cropping Systems Program was a natural fit because of the program’s recent equipment upgrades and the support personnel located in Sidney and Lincoln. The primary goals of Creech and Easterly are to develop the program into a leader regionally and to leverage new research opportunities.
“The most critical component of the Variety Testing Program is getting the data to farmers in a timely fashion and in a format they can use,” Creech said.
Accordingly, he and Easterly teamed up with faculty and staff in UNL’s Quantitative Life Sciences Initiative and Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources (IANR) Communications to develop a new data-management process and a web-based decision-support tool. Initially available for winter wheat, the tool will be expanded to include other crops.
Before the Variety Testing Program transitioned, winter wheat was the only crop being tested. Beginning in 2020, spring wheat, corn and grain sorghum were also evaluated across the state, and additional crops will follow in 2021.
Creech stressed that the success of the Variety Testing Program lies with the support of industry partners, on-farm collaborators who host sites, and Nebraska Extension.
“When this move was being considered, one question that was continually raised was how a statewide testing network could be leveraged for new research opportunities,” he said. “We have already seen success in this endeavor. In winter wheat, we added intensive management trials in Mead and Sidney. In spring wheat, we partnered with Ardent Mills to explore baking and milling qualities. Lastly, in grain sorghum, we teamed up with the Nebraska Sorghum Board and a few seed companies to explore food-grade sorghum and how growing environments across the state might alter certain sought-after characteristics.”
Looking ahead, new opportunities are being pursued through grant funding to help ensure the success of the Variety Testing Program.