The CropTec Show 2017

Join us on Weds 29th & Thurs 30th Nov at The CropTec Show – visit the Crop Breeding seminar to find out all the latest updates

Registration is free for all those who pre-register before the event.

Fresh approach to variety selection is needed

Jock Willmott, Partner – Farming, Strutt & Parker

The trend towards later drilling on farms affected by black-grass highlights an urgent need for a new approach to variety selection and agronomy if crops are to fulfil potential and break the yield plateau affecting UK wheat.

Sowing wheat later reduces its ability to tiller and establish fully before winter, which in turn limits yield potential compared with earlier sowing. Variety selection and seed rate are two key factors we can change to mitigate the effects of later drilling, but deciding on the best option can be tricky given limited information on the Recommended List, or from breeders.

That’s one reason Strutt & Parker is trialling a range of varieties to see how they perform under commercial late drilling situations on one East Anglian farm. It is too early to draw firm conclusions from the ongoing work but I will go through some early findings at CropTec.

One thing that is clear is the need to get away from the traditional focus on RL ratings for yield and disease resistance when selecting what to grow.

Choosing varieties based on the gross margin achieved under local conditions provides a much more accurate assessment, but it requires more work to get right. For example, many high-yielding varieties are milling types, so how much yield is down to genetics or extra nitrogen? How much does the price premium contribute to the gross margin?

Seed rate is another area we need to examine more closely, especially for later drilled crops on heavy land where we’ve found it is possible to compensate for reduced tillering. For example, in one trial increasing the seed rate from 350 to 450 seeds/m2 gave an additional 0.6t/ha yield.

It is only by better understanding the interactions between individual varieties and the many aspects of crop agronomy that we can more accurately select the best options for specific situations.

Crop Breeding sessions sponsored by Bayer

Chaired by the progressive, Twitter vocal, Cambridgeshire Nuffield Scholar farmer, Russell McKenzie, this session will cover:

  • Reading between the lines of the latest variety recommendations
  • Jock Willmott from Strutt & Parker will explore how to select varieties based on financial performance achieved under local conditions
  • James Brown, the brilliant crop genetics researcher from the John Inness Centre, will tell us why resistance breaks down, what growers can do to avoid it and how new breeding technologies working with new chemistry might provide the answer.

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