Planting for 2022 starts with seed selection

Planting for 2022 starts with seed selection

The “off-season” is officially here, and we now look to the growing season in 2022. The transition from one growing season to the next is often formally rung in by the arrival of seed catalogs, and if you are like me, that means a fairly large pile of them. These are fun to flip through and often have great pictures of varieties each respective company is showcasing, but there is a lot more to pay attention to while perusing these catalogs.

For the sake of not writing a multi-page bulletin, I will primarily focus on seed and variety selection for vegetable producers; however, many of these points apply to agronomic farmers as well.

When deciding on what varieties you want to plant next year, consider what is influencing your choices. Is it the yield potential? Is the variety ideal for our area? Does the picture catch your eye? While all these components are valid considerations, there are others that are just as valid, if not more important.

Digging deeper into the qualities of certain varieties, you will find many catalogs now list traits such as disease resistance or tolerance. Other features such as crack resistance, heat tolerance or even greenhouse/high tunnel performance can be found as well. These technical traits, if you will, can seem overwhelming and may consume some time and effort in completing an in-depth analysis between varieties. However, knowing what traits you are getting in a variety can make a huge difference during the growing season next year.

A primary point of interest when considering varieties is integrated pest management. Variety selection should be highly considered as one of the first tools in your IPM toolbox. The most important point here is to know what problems you have dealt with in the past. Being able to correctly diagnose disease or insect challenges will help you pick the correct varieties with the appropriate disease and insect resistance or tolerance traits. Also, acknowledging what insects and diseases are common in our area will help you make educated and impactful decisions when selecting varieties.

Settling on varieties that are susceptible to diseases is sometimes the only decision that can be made; however, this does put you a step behind in the interest of disease management. Knowing full well the likelihood of facing certain diseases like cucurbit powdery mildew is inevitable, but finding varieties with resistance is a great resource in your IPM toolbox.

A disease or insect resistant variety results in your crop having the ability to withstand some pest pressure, which could cut back on the number of pesticides or applications needed for said crop.

Naturally, appearance and eye appeal to the consumer increases the marketability of vegetable crops; nevertheless, without some of these more technical traits, the cosmetic quality of the crop can drop significantly. One big trait that comes to mind is tomatoes and cracking. After caring for tomato plants and finally reaching fruit production, it’s a terrible feeling when you attempt to harvest only to find the tomatoes cracked and in no condition to be packed or sold. Talk about frustrating. If this is a challenge you face, look for varieties that have crack resistance or the ability to withstand rapidly changing environmental conditions.

Other challenges growers may face over the growing season include periods of drought or sometimes too much water. Some crops have better drought tolerance ratings than others. Likewise, there are some that are rated better in their adaptability to a range of environmental conditions, as previously mentioned. Undeniably, yield is an important trait, as is days to harvest. There are other important ones to consider such as market desirability, performance in certain soil types and conditions, and ease of harvest, among numerous other traits.

The objective here in bringing up all these traits that you can opt for is to encourage you to take the time to sit down and do some reading. Do some research on different varieties. Pick the varieties that are best for your farm and/or garden. Picking varieties simply because the picture in the catalog looked attractive or because they have a cool name does not always work out and may lead to disappointing results come harvest time.

I have heard it said that sometimes fishing lures appeal more to the fisherman than the fish. The seed catalogs are no different. Many growers can be reeled into buying seeds based on pictures in the catalog; when in reality, there may not be a market for that crop or it is a variety that has a lot of challenges during the growing season.

Reflect on your current varieties and contemplate if they are helping or hindering you in respect to meeting your production goals. This is not to say it isn’t enjoyable to grow something fun looking or to try a new variety, but the key, especially for commercial producers, is to make smart business decisions when ordering seeds.

Being prepared and giving yourself a competitive edge when it comes to crop quality and production will go a long way. By selecting the right varieties and using the correct management, you could have major improvements in production and quality.

Just as important as selecting the appropriate varieties is being timely about doing so. I am sure many of you faced challenges with seed shortages and back orders over the past year. Get ahead of the ball and take care of getting your seeds ordered now. This is a great time of year to take an opportunity to really study those seed catalogs and dig deep into what they have to offer. These companies are continuously developing new varieties with better traits to fit the needs of the growers, buyers and consumers.

With the amount of seed companies, varieties and traits available, I am convinced there is something for everyone. You just need to take the time to find it. The value of picking the right varieties and traits is truly worth investing your time and effort into.

Frank Becker is the Wayne County OSU Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Integrated Pest Management Program coordinator and certified crop advisor and may be called at 330-264-8722.

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