23 June 1995

Root hormones key to stress

CROP yields could be lifted 3% a day by preventing late season stress. And that is possible by encouraging hormone production in healthy roots.

So says Jerry Stoller, head of the Houston, Texas-based company Stoller. Root hairs produce plant hormones that suppress ethylene production, and it is ethylene which makes plants susceptible to stress, he explains.

Providing the right nutrients throughout the growing season helps ensure root hair growth, so preventing the onset of stress. "It is stress that limits yields, not nutrient shortage. If we could control stress we would have more consistent fertiliser responses. We have shown that by applying Foli-N-hib we can alleviate stress spotting in cereals, for example."

Trials by Scottish Agronomy confirm the effect on root growth, he adds. Spring barley receiving the Stoller programme produced 35-40% more root. "The roots of the plant are its brain. But how many people look at the roots?"

Few UK growers have tried the approach, which has to be carefully integrated into husbandry systems, rather applied as a cure-all. "But with 200,000 acres of cereals treated this way around the world, not everybody is turning a deaf ear to it," he comments.

&#8226 Precision farming techniques are being used to assess the value of Stollers nutrient solutions. Treated and untreated bouts will be yield mapped this summer, says Mr Stoller. "When you walk through the crop you can see the effect to the line. Ears are higher and flag leaves stand more upright, plus there is less disease." &#42