Upper Peninsula field and forage crop trial results shared with farmers

Variety trials on agronomic crops of interest in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula provided useful information.

Spring barley variety trials in Chatham, Michigan. Photo credit: Christian Kapp, MSU AgBioResearch
Spring barley variety trials in Chatham, Michigan. Photo credit: Christian Kapp, MSU AgBioResearch

In 2014, the Michigan State University Upper Peninsula Research and Extension Center partnered with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) to initiate a set of variety trials on an impressively diverse set of crops. With funding from MDARD, variety trials were established on agronomic crops including winter wheat, spring wheat, spring barley, oats, winter rye, field peas, dry beans, forages (grass and alfalfa) and cover crops. In addition, variety trials on 12 vegetable crops were conducted, including carrots, beets, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, rutabaga, parsnips, tomatoes, onion, eggplant, winter squash, summer squash and turnips. Other on-going crop variety trials included corn and potatoes, funded by other sources.

A team of MSU personnel decided to take a presentation with the available results of the agronomic crop variety trials on the road in December 2014 and January 2015. Michigan State University Extension educator Ashley McFarland and I, along with MSU AgBioResearch crop research technician Christian Kapp, organized and conducted eight meetings across the region, reaching 79 people. The groups were small, but interested and engaged. Meetings were held in Ontonagon, Iron, Menominee, Schoolcraft, Alger, Mackinac, Delta and Chippewa counties.

The crop variety trials were grown under challenging conditions in 2014, including delayed planting caused by wet weather, an unusually cool summer and cool, wet conditions during harvest season. This resulted in higher than optimal moisture in all harvested grains. Kapp presented the results of the variety trials and identified crop varieties of interest for Upper Peninsula farmers.

Crop variety results from 2014 field research


# of varieties

Average yield

Varieties to watch


Winter wheat


49 bu/acre

Pioneer 25R34
Pioneer 25R47
PIP 721

Average test weight: 61 lbs/bu

Spring wheat


31 bu/acre

LCS Powerplay

Average test weight: 59 lbs/bu

Spring barley


87 bu/acre (Chatham)


Average test weight: 49 lbs/bu

Two-row varieties show the most promise for the malting barley industry



88 bu/acre


Average test weight: 34 lbs/bu


Dry field peas


61 bu/acre

DS Admiral

Average test weight: 61 lbs/bu






Results available at MSU 2014 Forage Variety Test Report

Cover crops



Variable depends on cover crop’s intended function.

Buckwheat was top weed suppressor. Chickling vetch was top biomass producer. Annual rye had the highest respiration reading (by Solvita test).

Dry bean trials were planted in Delta County, but late planting and cool weather resulted in crop loss and no useable data was collected. Winter rye trial results will not be available until later in 2015.

McFarland discussed the cover crop trial in detail and explained the measurements of soil biological activity collected using the Solvita soil test and how weed suppression was estimated. She also discussed the developing malting barley interest in Michigan to supply ingredients to the vibrant craft brewing industry. I discussed marketing and on-farm use opportunities for the various crops included in the trials.

For detailed information on the results of these trials, contact Jim Isleib at isleibj@anr.msu.edu or 906-387-2530, or Ashley McFarland at ashleymc@anr.msu.edu or 906-439-5176.

For more information, see “Showcasing crop potential in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.”

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