The Seed People
For many years professors and graduate students at South Dakota State University (SDSU) have been developing new varieties of crop seeds for public use.
Bill Gibbons, associate dean for research at the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences at SDSU, said researchers in the department of agronomy, horticulture and plant science breed winter and spring wheat and oats.
“They develop the new varieties over a number of years and then we have people in that same department who run what’s called crop performance testing trials,” Gibbons said.
During those trials, breeders grow the most promising varieties at small plots at various locations around the state, including at SDSU’s experiment station farms and on land rented from individual producers. There the seeds are tested in different soils and moisture conditions for three to five years.
Gibbons said the new varieties are compared to established varieties to see which ones perform better in terms of yield, disease resistance and other agronomic traits, and characteristics such as test weights, protein levels, and milling and baking properties. The SDSU Variety Release Committee, which includes SDSU scientists and administrators and producers, then reviews data from the trials and decides whether to increase the amount of seeds with the intent of releasing the variety for future sale or discontinue it.
If the committee votes to proceed, South Dakota Foundation Seed, a non-profit educational public service corporation formed in 1945, gradually increases the amount of seed.