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Agronomic & Forage Crops

Cultivar Selection and Development

The success of agronomic crop production in various locations in the United States depends on the availability of plant varieties and hybrids specifically adapted to local production conditions. Cultivar selection and development represent a major use of NIFA federal Hatch and multistate formula grants by land-grant experiment stations. Most of them have active breeding programs to develop the more important crops grown in their state.

This research work focuses on developing cultivars that are adapted to local climatic and soil conditions. These cultivars provide resistance to major pests and diseases, produce acceptable yield and quality, and have appropriate agronomic characteristics that are compatible with production systems.

Research activities in this area span a wide range, including:

  • Fundamental genetic studies.
  • Identifying genes of agronomic importance.
  • Screening genetic stocks for breeding material that carry the desired traits.
  • Breeding and selection of lines as potential new cultivars for release to growers.

Novel characteristics are added to existing cultivars or breeding lines to meet the ever-changing requirements for profitable crop production. These include, but are not restricted to:

  • Genes for resistance to new diseases or insect pests.
  • Alterations in quality to meet changing market demand.
  • Modifications in plant architecture or growth habit to fit changing production systems.

Many experiment stations also conduct research on potential new or alternative crops that may be grown profitably in the area.

In addition to the cultivar selection and development work, most experiment stations carry out variety testing programs. This work provides growers with unbiased side-by-side comparisons of both public and proprietary cultivars to help them select appropriate ones to plant. Because of the rapid turnover in commercial hybrids of crop species, such as corn and soybeans, experiment stations conduct tests annually in representative locations. They replicate these tests sufficiently to provide statistically sound comparisons.


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