Many of you are familiar with the forage variety performance brochure published annually by the Ontario Forage Crops Committee (OFCC). (www.goforages.ca) Due to recent changes to the Seeds Act, new support from producer organizations and seed companies will be needed for this third-party variety information to be available in the immediate future.
Farmers want top yielding varieties, but they also want assurance that registered perennial forage varieties are adapted to Ontario conditions and have adequate persistence. The forage variety brochure was developed each year since 1955 based on data from independent variety trials at various Ontario locations, including Elora, Kemptville, New Liskeard and Thunder Bay. As of this year, this type of official registration trial data and recommendations for forage variety registration is no longer required by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
The OFCC has proposed to continue performance testing of alfalfa varieties in the spring of 2015 on a voluntary, fee-for-service basis. Head-to-head data for individual sites will be publically available. Similar forage variety performance tests were offered to the industry in 2013 and 2014, but insufficient entries were received to seed the trials. In order for this proposal to succeed, sufficient varieties for head-to-head tests will need to be entered by the cooperating seed companies. In addition to entry fees paid by the companies, some funding will be required from farm organizations to help cover expenses. Seed companies respond to the needs of their customers. If there is insufficient interest by their farmer customers, seed companies are unlikely to participate.