The Cereals Event has gained a reputation as the place where science really is put into practice, thanks to the many crop plots that allow researchers, breeders, and technicians to illustrate their messages so effectively. This year is no exception.
Fungicide inputs, including newly introduced chemistry, the rising menace of blackgrass and other problem weeds, and novel sources of genetics are just some of the key themes being tackled.
HGCA is examining fungicide performance across three crops, with a range of materials, including the new SDHIs, applied to wheat, barley and oilseed rape. “We expect a lot of interest this year following the introduction of this new fungicide group to one of our ongoing flagship funded programmes,” says HGCA’s head of research Dr Susannah Bolton.
Fungicide inputs also come under the spotlight at Rothamsted Research. The average wheat grower stands to lose £120/ha due to sub-optimal fungicide use with wheat prices at £180/t, reckons Bill Clark, director of Rothamsted’s Broom’s Barn.
“Even in clean crops, margins fall away dramatically once fungicide applications fall below the optimum,” he says. The plots will help show that modern programmes are about building additional yield as well as disease control, with well-tried chemistry and the latest SDHI fungicides all contributing to maximise margins.
For Bayer the main focus is its recently launched SDHI fungicides, the Xpro cereal range – Aviator235Xpro for wheat and SiltraXpro for barley. These are claimed to deliver up to 0.5t/ha and 0.25t/ha respectively through better disease control, longer lasting activity and crop greening effects.
Syngenta is reviewing its new SDHI fungicide for winter wheat, Seguris, following its launch earlier this season, and sister product Bontima, which, together with high-output hybrid barley, can boost yields significantly.
AICC plots are designed to compare SDHI fungicide performance against a standard triazole treatment.
Both Bayer and Syngenta are emphasising the need for integrated cultural and improved herbicide control of blackgrass, including the use of sophisticated pre-emergence herbicide mixtures.
The effectiveness of using higher wheat populations to out-compete blackgrass, and so help take the pressure off chemical control, is being assessed by HGCA. It is also examining the potential value of a range of micronutrients and how these might affect crop quality and yield.
On the Association of Independent Crop Consultants’ stand visitors can compare the impact of a range of pre- and early post-emergence chemistry on separate strips of blackgrass, sterile brome, ryegrass and mixed broadleaved weeds. Half the area has also received an Atlantis follow-up, to further extend the comparison.
“We also have two plots with a single spray of Atlantis and Broadway Star,” says the AICC’s arable consultant Peter Taylor. “We hope visitors will discuss the findings and see how results compare with their own farm practice.”
On other Rothamsted plots, Mark Stevens is demonstrating the symptoms and effects of viruses on a range of different crops, namely barley, oilseed rape, potatoes and sugar beet, and highlighting their yield-sapping effects and the importance of timely control.
Further plots examine the effect of light leaf spot and phoma in oilseed rape. This is of increasing importance to growers as the traditional north-south divide between the two diseases becomes blurred. Plots will also look into control of pollen beetle using diversion crops.
Velcourt is taking an in-depth look at plant genetics, and the tools and research techniques breeders use to create new varieties. The development of more robust and durable wheats suitable for the next decade and beyond is a main feature.
Ways that both NIAB synthetic hexaploid wheats and the Wheat Genetic Improvement Network (WGIN) can deliver novel traits are being demonstrated. Enhancements can include improved efficiency of nitrogen uptake, increased photosynthetic area, optimum crop heights, and drought resistance.
“We also have a very visual plot demonstrating the timeline and technology that’s needed to breed a wheat variety, from first cross through purification, selection and multiplication, and we’ll be showing how the use of genetic markers aids the process,” says technical director Keith Norman.
Drought resistance in wheats is also highlighted by Rothamsted. Almost a third of the UK wheat area is grown on drought-prone land. Second wheats are especially prone, particularly where take-all is present. Recent work showing how the choice of first wheat can influence levels of this disease in the following wheat will be displayed.
Cereal plots from the Smart Carbs project contain varieties with different starch properties to improve the nutritional content or provide new end-market opportunities. And beans developed for different uses and growing conditions, as part of the DEFRA-funded Pulse Crop Genetic Improvement Network (PCGIN), are displayed.
NIAB TAG is highlighting the scope for genetic improvement in UK crops, as well as husbandry advice and improvements in production systems.
Finally, NIAB’s new Innovation Farm project makes its Cereals debut, highlighting the contribution of advanced breeding and genetics, and introducing new plant traits and crops that could become a common sight on UK farms.