New seed treatments helping to improve root health could provide one of the first steps in breaching the yield plateau, according to one chemical company.
Producing crops with healthier root systems is being targeted to help reach the genetic potential in crops like wheat of producing over 19t/ha.
Alison Bosher, seedcare manager at Syngenta, said that with 80% of plant issues starting from under the ground, investigating the benefits of healthy roots will be key going forward.
“Roots perform vital functions. As well as anchoring the plant in the soil, they provide a large surface area for uptake of water and nutrients. Yet they are exposed to all kinds of hidden threats.”
Seed and soil borne disease are some of the principal concerns but fluctuating weather patterns are also seeing crops face different challenges.
Climatic shifts have seen many UK growers subject to both floods and droughts in recent years, so ensuring thicker stronger roots with improved branching could be vital in coping with the more adverse weather, according to Ms Bosher.
This year large parts of the west of the UK have experienced floods which can result in plants developing poor rooting systems and being unable to cope with any future challenges.
“For us something had to change and be done differently so we really started to look underneath the soil”, Ms Bosher said.
“Diseases such as Rhizoctonia, Pythium, Fusarium and Microdochium are obvious threats –and these are important.
But there are others – for example the effects of abiotic stresses, such as drought, lodging and nutrient deficiency.”
The new product coming through in around two years time is the chemical group’s next step into root science.
“It is critical we understand more about soil rooting so we can then drive the wheat plateau and try and increase the yields.
“We think by having a more branched root structure, plants can forage more, become less prone to lodging, withstand pest and disease, greater levels of photosynthesis and produce bigger yield.”
See also: More arable news from the Cereals event