From Issue Winter 2016
The Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station evaluates the performance of commercially-available varieties of corn, cotton, grain sorghum, peanuts, rice, soybeans, wheat, and oats throughout the state of Mississippi in the MAFES Official Variety Trials.
The Official Variety Trials examine yield as well as other data such as maturity date, plant height, lodging, reaction to disease and herbicides, and plant characteristics, depending on the crop. The variety trials are professionally-managed and conducted by a team of experts in a research-oriented environment to minimize variability. These trials provide unbiased, comprehensive information that assists farmers in making pivotal decisions about variety/hybrid selection and management.
Variety selection is one of the most important decisions made annually by Mississippi row-crop producers. The MAFES Official Variety Trials provide timely, objective, scientifically-based, and regionally-relevant information on expected yield performance.
“Variety Trials take place at branch experiment stations throughout the state and on participating commercial farms,” said Brad Burgess, director of the MAFES Official Variety Trials program. “With changing technologies, new varieties are developed yearly, making it difficult for a producer to develop extensive experience with individual varieties. The MAFES Official Variety Trials provide information to producers on variety performance in numerous geographic locations, soil types, and irrigation strategies.”
MAFES has been conducting the trials since the early 1900s. In 2013, the Experiment Station embarked on a continuous improvement plan for the Variety Trial program.
Continuous improvement is an ongoing effort of evaluating and implementing methods to enhance protocols and varieties to meet the needs of producers and improve communication on test results, while maintaining scientific and objective analysis.
As part of the continuous improvement plan, MAFES hosted an external review of the Official Variety Trials program in 2015. Dr. Fred Allen, professor and coordinator of variety testing at the University of Tennessee conducted the review.
Allen was complimentary of the MAFES Official Variety trial program stating, “MAFES administration and staff are to be commended for the strong reputations and achievements of the variety testing programs for the different crops.”
Upon completion of the review, Allen found that the variety testing programs are conducted by skilled, well-trained professionals, who use appropriate and sound scientific methods and statistical techniques.
While Allen found no major weaknesses or flaws in any of the various crop variety testing programs, he did make recommendations to improve the program overall. Many of those changes were implemented during the 2016 season.
Administrators have also made other changes to the MAFES Official Variety Trial program including an updated website and notifications to producers when new information is available.
“We have created a system where producers can sign up on the variety trial website to receive an email notification when data has been added to the website,” Burgess said. “We also use social media to let producers know when data has been compiled and is available.”
A goal of the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station Official Variety Trials is to provide data as quickly as possible so producers may use the data to make informed decisions, Burgess added
Faculty and staff will continue to work to improve the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station Official Variety Trial program. This includes the development of a mobile app to deliver information to producers in a timely manner.
For more information, visit the MAFES Official Variety Trials website at www.mafes.msstate.edu/variety-trials.