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Seed Trial Results Arrive on Internet
By Douglas Wilcox
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi soybean and cotton farmers should find it easier to decide what seed variety to plant these days, not by trial and error, but by accessing the Internet through their home computers.
The Mississippi soybean variety trials, conducted by the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, yield information ranging from how to select a seed variety for your field to the actual planting procedures. Any farmer in the world with a computer and Internet access can download the information from the World Wide Web.
Dr. Alan Blaine, extension agronomist at Mississippi State University, said before the trials began more than 30 years ago, farmers had trouble getting accurate information on seed varieties.
"We expect to plant 2 million acres of soybeans in the state this year. Before these seed trial tests, farmers either utilized onfarm testing or information from different seed companies to choose seed varieties," Blaine said.
MAFES researchers conduct soybean variety trials yearly in different counties around the state. Commercial seed companies can enter more than one variety of seed and select from different testing areas.
Blaine said putting the seed variety information on the World Wide Web was a good move because it cut down on publication time; however, farmers are only in the early stages of using their computers as information resources.
"The information we're providing is mostly being accessed by different university researchers or county extension agents who provide it to growers," said Blaine. "We have gotten some very positive feedback and the biggest question being when are all of the 1995 trials going to be on the Web."
Dr. Steve Calhoun, associate agronomist at the Delta Branch Experiment Station in Stoneville, said Mississippi farmers aren't the only ones putting seed trial information to use, especially when it comes to cotton.
"Larger seed companies access the Web's database and download the trials," said Calhoun. "Information is used across the nation and internationally by India and Turkey."
Calhoun added that of the 1.3 million acres of cotton planted last year in Mississippi, the majority is Delta Pine 50, Delta Pine 20 or Delta Pine 51 variety.
"Before seed trials, growers would use one type of seed variety across the state. Now we have many more varieties to choose from," Calhoun said.
Choosing the correct seed variety for a maximum crop yield is a goal of every farmer. Different varieties can be more or less adaptable to different soils. MAFES also provides crop variety testing information for corn, wheat, oat, cotton and forage crops.
"We provide unbiased third-party testing information which is utilized by Mississippi farmers and neighboring states," said Dr. Vance Watson, MAFES assistant director. "When deciding on different seed varieties, we use multiple year performance averages, specifically three years, for our tests."
Watson added that since around 1918, private industries and seed companies have done most of the seed testing in the United States.
For more information on crops and other agriculture related topics including variety trials and current weather forecasts, Mississippi State University maintains a variety trial Web page which can be accessed at http://www.aac.msstate.edu/Mafes/Variety any time.