The variety or hybrid selection decision is one of the most important in successfully producing any crop. Today’s top producers search for information to make science-based and data-driven decisions. Agricultural universities, private seed companies, local crop and ag improvement associations, and others are working to produce the kind of data that can be used to drive that process.

When it comes to winter wheat, “test plots” are planted that include currently-grown varieties, varieties being grown in neighboring regions, and promising new experimental lines. Data collected on each variety includes the usual yield, test weight and protein percentage. Other ratings sometimes captured, include winter-hardiness, plant height, lodging, maturity, and the disease reactions to fungal leaf spot, leaf rust, wheat streak mosaic virus, and fusarium head blight. This information is compiled each year and is available from a number of different sources.

Although crop producers have become quite good at identifying the characteristics they consider to be most important, the sheer volume of test plot data available (and necessary) to make an informed decision can be overwhelming, intimidating and not just a little bit unwieldy. To help simplify this process, the agronomists at Ducks Unlimited have compiled all of the data that they could get their hands on to develop a master database. Any data provided from any reliable source was included in the database. DU also accepted trial data from North Dakota State University, South Dakota State University, Montana State University, and the University of Minnesota. Trial data from crop improvement groups and from private seed companies were also included when available. Yield data from the years 2009-2013, and other trait data going as far back as 2001, were then utilized to create two different versions of their “Winter Wheat Variety Selection Tool” – one for South Dakota and one for North Dakota.

The “tool” is an Excel spreadsheet that assigns relative ratings from 0-4 for each characteristic for each variety found in the database. As “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” certainly applies to evaluating winter wheat varieties, the spreadsheet tool allows users to assign their own “weighting” (percentage of overall importance) to as many of the characteristics as they wish, and then to sort the varieties based on those weightings. Different tabs (worksheets) of the spreadsheet allow users to limit their selections based on yield results from sub-regions of the state, or to make evaluations on a broader scale (state-wide plus nearby trials in neighboring states). Users are encouraged to read the “Explanatory and Cautionary Notes” at the bottom of the spreadsheet for each region in order to get the full benefit of the tool.

The “Winter Wheat Variety Selection Tool” was developed by Ducks Unlimited with funding from Bayer CropScience. Developmental and promotional support was also provided from the South Dakota Wheat Commission, Winfield Solutions, North Dakota State University and South Dakota State University.

DU Agronomist Steven Dvorak, the primary developer of the tool, gives a special tribute to the South Dakota Wheat Commission and to key personnel at NDSU and SDSU. “The folks at the South Dakota Wheat Commission have been a real treat to work with. If it were not for the input and encouragement provided by Past SDWC Executive Director Randy Englund and some of his producer board members, I don’t know that I would have been able to make these tools a reality,” Dvorak said. ” And the refinements suggested by people such as Joel Ransom (Extension Agronomist – Cereal Crops, NDSU) and Bob Fanning (Plant Pathology Field Specialist, SDSU), improved the value and usability of the tool.”

This is the first edition of the Variety Selection Tool. Plans are to update and upgrade it on an annual basis. Although this tool is available for free download and for use right now, it will not yet have 2014 data incorporated into its output. The recommendation would be to utilize the tool alongside the fresh data now becoming available from Ducks Unlimited, university extension and the various private seed companies. This tool can be found via the link “New and Innovative: Check out our Variety Selection Tool” found on the front page of Ducks Unlimited Agronomy’s website:


Becky Jones Mahlum
(701) 355-3500

Logo courtesy Ducks Unlimited

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