How varietal traits can help avert risk
by Arable Farming July 2020
Five priority grower needs are helping to align future genetic developments for one wheat breeder, in a bid to produce more sustainable variety choices.
Announcing its new Sowing for Peak Performance (SPP) breeding initiative, KWS says focusing on developing functional traits to address future production challenges could deliver greater cost benefits to growers than targeting higher yields.
Knowledge transfer manager Dr Kirsty Richards says: “While historically varieties have been primarily judged on their ability to deliver high outputs and physical or agronomic traits have been seen as secondary benefits, the environment in which we will all be producing crops in the future is rapidly turning the tables.
“About 80% of the crop production results you see are down to the seed choices you make. You can fine tune this with agronomy and nutrition, but fundamentally the potential of your crop is locked in with the seed you drill.
“Actually managing it is the remaining 20%. We can’t guarantee what the weather is, but you can choose varieties that will give the most flexibility to deal with whatever you’re faced with.
“Hopefully by choosing the right variety at the right time you’ll be in the right position to produce a profitable crop.”
Although high yields and the ability to consistently reach market specifications is still critical, other crop characteristics are now becoming important, Dr Richards says.
“Traits such as disease resistance, standing power, high vigour to outcompete weeds and late drilling capability already offer growers the means to address many of these issues, but this is just the start.
“Specific characteristics to match varieties to cultivation method used, greater levels of in-built resilience to counter more variable growing conditions, stronger physical traits and a greater range of disease resistance available in the future, have the potential to transform the economics and day-to-day management of
KWS has already been doing this to some degree through a number of its current varieties, says product development manager John Miles.
This includes KWS Extase, a variety that has offered growers a level of flexibility they had not seen before, he says.
“KWS Extase is a real farmerfriendly variety and growers are drawn to its 95% untreated yield plus 9s and 8s for disease scores.
The loss of CTL is going to put more pressure on other fungicides, but resistant varieties such as Extase are part of the solution.”
The need for more flexibility is highlighted by weather data across five sites in the East Midlands during T1 applications (April 15 to May 5) in 2018 and 2019.
The data indicates an average spraying opportunity of 56% across these dates, all based on wind speeds of less than 10mph.
“Growing more resistant varieties builds in a bit more flexibility,” say Mr Miles.
“The same dates in East Anglia indicate an average spraying opportunity of 60% across these dates. That’s another massive risk factored in that variety can help to balance because whatever the weather does or does not do, your yield is protected by strong genetics.
“SPP is not a new concept but we’ve been facing too much risk – and the way things are going we need to eliminate every risk we can as easily as we can.
Genetics is one of the easiest ways to do that.”
Benefits of SPP
KWS has identified a number of macro-drivers to demonstrate how variety selection using SPP can offer growers potential on-farm benefits and cost savings.
- High in-built disease resistance
- High resilience
- Competitive growth habit
- Earliness to harvest
- Good physical/ functional traits
Sowing for peak performance
Five grower needs that will underpin all future breeding development at KWS:
- Maximising production/ profitability
- Effective crop management
- Achieving optimal crop health
- Reducing inputs and associated costs
- Improving productivity from soil