Flint on Crops: What is a Good Variety Worth?

    Since writing a recent article about the importance of choosing varieties that perform well in terms of yield, disease and drought tolerance, and overall ease of management, I have continued to think about the importance of this subject. In this article I want to continue that discussion a little further and look a little deeper into this issue and carry it over into the economic side, which is really where it belongs anyway.

    The importance of variety choice often falls short of the mark in reaching the emphasis it actually deserves.

    Yield is normally the data that is used to judge a variety regardless of the crop, and this is generally correct but there are other considerations as well. In fact the number we should be looking for is the number at the bottom of the profit/loss statement. I will only be looking at yield here, but closer attention to grades and other factors should be considered as well.

    Let’s look at a couple of examples just for the sake of discussion.

    Consider cotton, a crop I have worked with for “several” years. The 2013 statewide trials showed that two of the most commonly planted varieties were separated by an average of over 250 pounds of lint yield per acre for both the Delta and Hill locations. Even with cotton at sixty cents where it is today that’s a $155 per acre difference in gross value of the crop. Of course there are other factors such as grade to consider, but you get the idea.

    For soybeans the overall state average yield difference between two of the most popular varieties that many people plant was ten bushels per acre. If you place that against the state average yield that is just over forty bushels you’re looking at a 25 percent difference. Even if you have to sell beans at seven dollars that’s $70 per acre difference in gross value.

    In corn the average yield difference for two of the most commonly planted varieties in dryland culture was 24 bushels per acre. Differences among varieties under irrigation was roughly half this amount but still economically significant. For a farm without irrigation four dollar corn would gross almost $100 more just by choosing the better of these two entries.

    The varieties I have compared here are common to all of us, and in most cases would be equally valued for planting. We have to be more careful because we are losing a lot of value that could be captured simply by doing a better job of studying the information that is available to everyone. Similar differences can be found in other crops as well.

    The MAFES trials and area trials done by agents like myself and others are available on or in printed form for the asking.

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