Cereals 2009: Crop plots tackle key arable issues

It’s easy to dismiss crop plots as being somewhat removed from the real world, but that misses the point.

What brings these small areas alive is the direct contact they allow to some of the country’s leading researchers, plant breeders and technical managers.

That can be hugely valuable to any business – without science we cannot tackle the issues nor capitalise on the opportunities of the future.

More than 90 crop plots from 28 companies will be on show at Cereals 2009. “Exhibitors have put a huge amount of effort to communicate just what’s happening in commercial and industry-funded R&D programmes, and, more importantly, how to apply the findings to practical agronomy,” explains Cereals event presenter Jon Day.

Rothamsted’s demonstrations tackle some of the biggest challenges UK arable farmers face.

The organisation is examining wheat disease control options without triazoles as part of its focus on the long-term consequences of EU pesticides legislation. This shows how Septoria tritici can be controlled using a range of alternative fungicides, varietal choices and timing.

Rothamsted is also demonstrating the effects of climate change on oilseed rape diseases and yields.

Researchers estimate that roughly 30% of UK wheat production is on drought-prone land, and losses of 1-2t/ha could cost UK farmers £60m per year. To help discover which ones will perform best when moisture is limiting, researchers from Broom’s Barn are presenting details of work they have been doing with breeders.

Plant breeding

As usual, the breeders are out in force at Cereals.

KWS UK is demonstrating a range of new wheats, barleys, oilseed rape and sugar beet varieties. Among the wheats will be four Recommended List candidates – Curlew, Quartz, Horizon and Sterling – all potential milling varieties. Options for next year include premium soft wheat Viscount and early drilling/early harvesting newcomer Grafton.

On Monsanto’s stand visitors can see Vistive OSR, the specialist culinary oil variety, and can try chips fried in the oil from the Monsanto chip van.

Pioneer’s main focus is the company’s first HGCA Recommended List winter oilseed rape varieties PR46W21 and PR45D03.

DSV has a sequential crop display showing how hybrid varieties are developed and the intricacies of breeding these types of plants.

NK Seeds is focusing on green area indeces and how to manage nitrogen regimes to best match growth habits to achieve the best GAI.

Optimum GAI is considered to be 3.5, but NK is examining whether individual varieties have unique optimum GAIs and if this changes according to soil type or region.

RAGT is growing Bizzon, its first OSR candidate variety. The company says the variety has outstanding autumn vigour and will give hybrids a run for their money. There will also be 18th birthday celebrations for the stalwart Group 1 wheat Hereward.

Wherry & Sons is showing a range of winter bean varieties and agronomy demonstrations to illustrate the effects of early or late sowing, shallow or deep drilling and plant population on crops.

Branston, one of Britain’s biggest potato buyers, is growing some exclusive varieties, including Lanorma, said to be an excellent baker, Saphire (a good all rounder), Juliette (a gourmet salad variety) and Sassy (ideal for processing into crisps).

Pests, weeds and disease

Cereals host Velcourt is demonstrating new carboxamide fungicide chemistry on its stand alongside triazole mixtures. In addition it is examining how a variety’s growth habit and density might contribute to grassweed control.

Dow AgroSciences is demonstrating new approaches to grassweed control. New product Broadway Star makes its debut. It contains pyroxsulam, a new molecule specifically designed for UK conditions to control wild oats, ryegrasses, bromes and a range of broad-leaved weeds in winter wheat.

Rothamsted’s oilseed rape demonstrations include pollen beetle trapping studies and research into turnip yellows virus (TuYV), formerly known as beet western yellows virus. In wheat, septoria and take-all are the focus, while work on barley examines the life-cycle and spread of rhynchosporium.

Soils and nutrition

Visitors to the ADAS exhibit can find out the results of a three-year, £3.4m project on compost use for agriculture and land restoration. As well as longer-term benefits for soils, the results suggest that green/food composts are worth £10-£12/t in terms of crop nutrients.

Rothamsted researchers explain how they are identifying genes and providing the markers for breeders to produce varieties that can perform well with lower nitrogen inputs. A typical trial for Xi19 is demonstrated on the plot.

Biodiversity

Kings Games Cover and Conservation Crops is demonstrating wildlife conservation techniques for all four seasons to help farmers optimise wildlife populations.

Also on the Kings’ stand, the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust is launching a new report highlighting research projects. One shows how traditional game management skills benefit not just wild game but many other species of farmland wildlife, especially song birds and brown hares.

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