A Look at Our Variety Trials
Sometimes I feel like the luckiest farmer around. As Trials Manager at High Mowing Organic Seeds, my job affords me the satisfaction of not only farming vegetables and flower and herbs, but also cultivating information. In fact, harvesting data is the reason for all that we do on our 5 acre Trials Farm. (Read about what we do with all of our produce from the farm here.) Many farmers I meet talk about trialing varieties on their own farms, trying out new cultivars that win their hearts with flattering catalog descriptions in the soft light of winter to see if those varieties measure up in the bright heat of summer. They have intentions of identifying which cultivars perform best on their farm, under their growing conditions. However, in the harried height of the season, when weeds are threatening to take over the fields and so many crops need harvesting, paying attention to differences between varieties can easily take the backseat. And sometimes, when it’s all said and done, spring’s best-intentioned, most well laid-out trial can result in fall’s inconclusive, shoulder-shrugging results. Types of Trials that High Mowing Conducts With the incredible support of my Trials Team, I get to do what many farmers wish they could: focus on the data and the differences between varieties. In 2012, we conducted 139 unique trials with a total of 176 total plantings (some trials have multiple successions to get a look at varieties in different seasonal slots). Trials are planted for various reasons, to meet several different goals:
- Trials allow us to evaluate newly available varieties that could potentially be added to our catalog. This is what makes up most of what we focus on at our Trials Farm.
- Grow-Outs are used to ensure true-to-typeness of varieties that come from either our Seed Production Farm and from our Breeding Program. We usually grow out 100 plants of a variety to check for consistency in plant habit and fruit, to look for any off-types, and to ensure that the plants are expressing the characteristics that they should be.
- Vendor Evaluations are used to compare seed sources for existing varieties. This may mean growing out different lots of the same variety, or comparing our own strain of a variety along with other sources of the same variety
- Showcase is where we highlight the varieties in our catalog and varieties that we will soon be offering. The “Showcase” area of the farm is used as a demonstration grounds for the public and to familiarize our sales staff with our current varieties.