12 April 1996

Hardiness question in cereal trial plots

ONE of the UKs most widely grown winter wheat varieties and one of its potential successors have been hard hit by frost in a manganese-stressed trial in Nottinghamshire.

Distinct differences in apparent hardiness are showing up in the variety/agronomy demonstration run by distributor Brown Butlin at Hall Farm, Kneeton.

Some plots of Riband and Consort have been almost wiped out. By contrast the NVB type Chablis and Zenecas newcomer Harrier alongside have survived relatively unscathed.

The findings, after the hardest winter for a decade, are not unexpected, say breeders. But growers should be wary of assuming the findings truly represent winter hardiness, they warn.

The demonstration, designed to examine three input regimes on 32 varieties of winter wheat and barley, was sown on Oct 5.

Unaffected plots

Plots, including winter barleys, on a part of the field long under arable cropping, appear largely unaffected. But drillings on puffier land ploughed out of grass about 10 years ago show clear varietal differences, says Brown Butlin agronomist Gerald Abel.

Temperatures dipped to -6C (21F) at the end of March, he notes. "Some varieties have taken a real hammering." Tissue analysis on Feb 20 showed a manganese deficiency, though the worst damage appears in a tramline section given a corrective foliar treatment on Mar 18 when temperatures were still quite low.

Shango and Hereward, PBI Cambridge stablemates of Riband and Consort, have also been hard hit, apparently by soil heave. But the firms Rialto has held up well.

Plant loss has been minimal in most official trials this season, says NIABs Bill Handley. Winter survival is complicated by factors such as tolerance of manganese deficiency and even mildew resistance, he says.

A PBI spokesman acknowledges Riband and some other varieties have suffered. However, the question is why manganese deficiency should be so widespread, he says. Crops treated in the autumn have been no problem.

John Blackman, for Chablis breeder CPB Twyford, says the Kneeton results could be worth considering on soils known to be manganese-deficient.

Andrew Blake

&#8226 Big varietal differences.

&#8226 Soil heave a factor.

&#8226 Manganese involved.

&#8226 Assess with care say breeders.

Frost and manganese deficiency have proved too much for Riband (foreground), but the Chablis behind is thriving in the Brown Butlin demo, says Gerald Abel.