As farmers plan for the next year’s crops, university researchers are working ahead to determine the best varieties for farmers across the state. Variety selection is arguably one of the most important decisions a farmer makes on a yearly basis.
Variety trials, conducted by Extension agents, faculty, and outlying Experiment Station directors, can take two forms. Agents and university faculty conduct on-farm variety trials, while university official variety trials (OVTs) are conducted on-site by station directors. Companies are asked to provide their best cultivars or hybrids for the trials.
OVTs provide the grower an unbiased, side-by-side comparison of all the varieties tested under a variety of growing conditions throughout the state. Growers can then use this information to make a more informed decision on variety selection to possibly increase profits.
On-farm Variety Trials
The researcher and producer decide the total number of cultivars or hybrids tested per trial. There can be as many as 20—or as few as five—varieties in an on-farm variety trial at one time.
On-farm trials give producers a look at variety performance managed on a production scale, as well as performance in a particular area. These trials also allow farmers and researchers to determine whether small-plot results will translate to full production scale.
Experiment Station Trials
Researchers can have as many as 50 cultivars or hybrids in small plot experiments. OVTs are a mixture of established varieties and experimental lines.
Companies enter experimental lines to test their performance against existing lines and how well they will perform in different areas of the state. Researchers use OVTs to determine the best market for the variety in the state. Companies also use these trials to determine which lines to release.
The company selects the cultivars or hybrids they would like tested, then researchers select other varieties for comparison.
Variety Trial Results
The Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station conducts statewide performance trials of commercially available varieties of major row crops including corn, cotton, soybeans, small grains, and ryegrass to name a few. Search the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station (AAES) website for select publications, research reports, and variety reports. Use the AAES variety trial database to compare varieties and access other important information. From the AAES website, you can subscribe to Auburn University variety testing updates.