Outcome of Small grain cultivar selection for organic systems

The current selection criteria used for the development of modern small-grain cultivars is based on performance in environments where synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are applied to minimize nutrient deficiencies and pests. Cultivar performance in these environments may not be applicable to organic environments where only approved inputs and mechanical weed control are used. Our objective was to identify hard red spring wheat ((Triticum aestivum L. emend. Thell.), barley (Hordeum vulgare L.), and oat (Avena sativa L.) cultivars that are adapted to environments managed organically in the northern Great Plains. Thirteen spring wheat and 10 oat cultivars representing a diverse pedigree were included in adaptation studies at two Minnesota (MN) and two North Dakota (ND) on-farm locations in 2002. Seed lots produced under both conventional and organic management were included for two wheat cultivars at all four locations and for two oat cultivars at two locations. Five barley cultivars also were compared at one ND location. Wheat grain production ranged from 13 to 31 bu/acre across cultivars and locations (P < 0.05). Oat yield ranged from 38 to 64 bu/acre. There was a significant interaction between location and cultivar for most crop traits measured, including grain yield. Yield ranged from 38 to 47 bu/acre among cultivars at the single location in ND where barley cultivars were compared. Grain yield and quality of modern small-grain cultivars were better than or equal to grain yield and quality of older cultivars at each location. Crop performance differed when two seed lots of the same cultivar were compared for both wheat and oats. Results of this preliminary study support the hypothesis that grain yield and quality may be maximized when modern rather than older commercial cultivars are grown in organic environments. The value of using high-quality seed lots for superior small-grain crop performance also was reinforced in this project.

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