Chapter 15. Crop Management for Breeding Trials
Appropriate agronomic management of breeding trials plays an important role in creating selection conditions that lead to clear expression of trait differences between genotypes. Good trial management reduces experimental error to a minimum and in this way facilitates the detection of the best genotypes. The field site should be representative for the target environment of the breeding program, including soil and climatic conditions, photoperiod, and pest and disease prevalence. Uniformity of a field site is important to provide similar growing conditions to all plants. Field variability is affected by natural and management factors and leads to variability in crop performance. Additionally, pest and disease incidence tend to concentrate in patches, introducing variability not necessarily related to the susceptibility of affected genotypes. Precise agronomic management of breeding trials can reduce natural field variability and can contribute to reduce variability of crop performance. Through specialized agronomic management, contrasting selection conditions can be created in the same experimental station. The use of adequate machinery like plot seeders and harvesters contributes to precise trial management and facilitates operation. Machine seeding assures even seeding depth and density. Plot combines can be equipped with grain cleaners, on-board weighing systems and sensors to measure grain humidity and weight, which can greatly facilitate data collection.