Published on 11/25/14

UGA Statewide Variety Testing program key aid in helping farmers decide what to plant every year

By Jordan Hill

Georgia farmers need to know what crops can be grown efficiently and successfully in their region of the state. Guidance from University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences personnel with the college’s Statewide Variety Testing program help farmers decide what to plant in the spring.

John Gassett, coordinator of the Statewide Variety Testing program, works with other UGA personnel to research which crops are most successful in different regions of the state. Gassett’s team tests corn, soybeans, peanuts, cotton and small grains, including barley, oat, rye, triticale hay and wheat to help in this determination.

“The farmer’s number one decision is variety selection,” Gassett said. “If farmers don’t choose an adapted variety, they will not be successful.”

Adapted varieties refer to crops that are suitable for planting in a specific climate and soil type. A variety that may be conducive in Midville, or southeast Georgia, may not produce the same results when planted in Plains, or southwest Georgia. Gassett and his team work year-round to provide accurate, timely, unbiased data to help farmers make the best variety selection possible. During the year, the team plants, manages and harvests these crops at seven locations across Georgia, including Blairsville, Rome, Griffin, Athens, Midville, Tifton and Plains.

Anthony Black, superintendent of the college’s Southeast Georgia Research and Education Center in Midville, cites the importance of testing the same crops in different locations: “Different varieties behave differently in different environmental situations,” he said.

When Gassett and his team receive the information for each crop at each different location, the information is combined and two- or three-year averages taken. Results can vary due to different weather conditions, like rainfall on the crops or high and low temperatures. For example, excessive rainfall defined the growing season in 2013, whereas, during this year, July and August incurred a drought. Gassett publishes the information for farmers as soon as the crops are harvested.

According to Gassett, every detail of each crop’s performance is crucial to farmers. The program documents yields, bloom dates, maturity dates, weights, heights, lodgings, seed sizes and seed shatterings.

“Many things affect agriculture. The more farmers know, the better decision they can make for their farm, future and family,” Gassett said.

Farmers across the state and throughout the Southeast use the information Gassett’s team provides.

“We are a major part of the tools that the university has to offer the agriculture industry. I feel that our Extension agents utilize our data to assist farmers in their decisions. The UGA crop production guides, Extension agents and our crop specialists should also be a part of a farmer’s toolbox,” Gassett said. “The more information available, the more educated decisions can be made.”

For more information about the program, see the Statewide Variety Testing program’s website at

(Jordan Hill is an intern with the UGA Tifton Campus.)

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