20 September 1996

NIAB trials confirm lodging fears over some winter wheats

FEARS that some newer winter wheat varieties tend to lodge have been confirmed in National Institute of Agricultural Botany trials. But Arable Research Centres director Mike Carver believes the industry overestimates standing power.

Laid crops did not cause big problems this harvest, says NIAB cereal specialist Richard Fenwick. But there was sufficient lodging in trials to discriminate between varieties. When added to data from previous seasons the results, highlighted in the latest Cereals Varplan 97, offer good pointers to the straw strength of the newcomers, he says.

Four of the seven varieties vying for recommendation later this autumn averaged at least 10% lodging in 1993-96. Most resistant is Equinox with a mean of only 3.7%. By comparison Buster, the stiffest listed variety, with a standing power rating of 9, recorded 2.2%, and Riband, rated 8, had a mean of 4%.

Madrigal, another possible candidate for the list, averaged 5.4% lodging, slotting somewhere between Consort, rated 8 and Brigadier on 7. Abbot, a potential bread-maker was 8.2% lodged, giving it a provisional 7 rating.

Charger and Harrier registered 13.1% and 13.8%, respectively, Drake 17.7%, and more than a quarter (26.6%) of Crofter met the NIAB definition of lodging.

The figures suggest the latter four varieties merit standing power ratings of 6 or less, he says. Of the 20 on the 1996 list, only four – Cadenza, Hussar, Mercia and Rialto – rated 6. All others merited at least 7.

Some of the newcomers clearly have straw strengths which are not as good as current commercial varieties, notes Mr Fenwick. "It will be an important factor which growers will wish to consider."

Not fully determined

The ARCs Dr Carver remains concerned that some wheat varieties have not had their lodging characteristics fully determined. Comments from breeders and others back his views, he claims.

To try to get a better handle on individual varieties the company drills specific trials on two very fertile sites which almost guarantee lodging, explains Dr Carver.

These suggest that the industry is probably underestimating the straw weakness of some key varieties, he says. "Our lodging data almost invariably indicates a lower straw strength than that from other organisations."