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Wet and windy woes for wheat standing

Agronomy Issues
20.01.2020
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waterlogged wheat roots

Wet and windy weather conditions have continued to sweep across the UK – further compounding the weather induced issues for growers through the autumn.

As a foretaste of changing climatic trends, the prevailing conditions pose a serious challenge for crop management this spring.

Waterlogged soil conditions have limited wheat plant root growth, especially on later drilled crops. Poor rooting can significantly reduce plants’ ability to take up moisture and nutrients, particularly if there’s a prolonged dry period later in the season, warned Syngenta Technical Manager, Georgina Wood.

Georgina Wood at Barton Black grass Focus Site

“Furthermore, reduced root anchorage will make crops more susceptible to lodging in high winds, or where heavy heads cannot be supported by weak stems,” she advised.

“Moddus PGR decisions at the initial T0 timing will have the greatest impact in building the crop architecture to manage the season’s weather threats.”

Against a backdrop of difficult agronomy decisions, the significantly reduced wheat area and downgrade of crop potential caused by the wet autumn has cut production forecasts and strengthened underlying price trends. Securing the highest possible yields from established crops will be paramount to push whole farm returns.

Georgina advocates splitting Moddus application to include the T0 timing, as this has shown to the greatest effects on root enhancement.

Stronger rooting assures improved anchorage and moisture and nutrient uptake, along with enhanced tolerance of take-all infection.

Lodged wheat

“Further application at T1 has shown to give the biggest responses in terms of height management, stem strength and tolerance of eyespot,” she added.

Results of research in Germany has also shown Moddus treatment helped plants to make over 12% more effective use of water resources, to deliver higher yields using less water per kg of grain production. 

Variety profile

This year, further independent variety profiling trials at Harper Adams University, by Dr Mitch Crook (below), have given a crucial insight into more precise tailoring of agronomy decisions for PGR timing and application rates (click image to watch the issues explained).

Dr Mitch Crook scientifically measures risks for crop lodging

Georgina cited tall varieties, with extended internodal interval, are typically weaker and benefit from greater PGR control and promotion of thicker stem walls, for example.

“The work has shown that for Evolution and Graham, for example, the T0 Moddus treatment is a priority to enhance anchorage strength,” she advised.

“Whilst growers still need to take into account local conditions and field situations, variety profiling does give a useful guide for management.”  

The Harper Adams research has also revealed that even some varieties that show no difference with or without PGR in AHDB ratings, such as Gleam or Grafton, can have particular traits where Moddus can particularly help with stem anchorage or basal strength, for example.

Thicker stem walls with Moddus treatment

Full details of the variety profiling and lodging risk assessment are available free to all growers and agronomists on the Syngenta website.

This season’s wheat recommendation is to apply Moddus at 0.1 to 0.2 l/ha, in tank mix with chlormequat (750 g/l) at 1.0 to 1.25 l/ha at both the T0 and T1 application, with the rates adjusted to the specific situation at each timing.

Cool uptake

“One of the key advantages of Moddus at the earlier T0 timing is faster uptake if conditions are cool,” highlighted Georgina Wood.

“And the research has shown that where it is used in tank mix, the faster uptake appears to carry the chlormequat into the plant quicker too, which benefits both elements.”

Research has shown Moddus is taken up three times faster than chlormequat at a temperature of 7°C. With the average April temperature of 7.9°C for the past three years, Moddus could have a two to three week advantage in achieving activity in the plant, compared to chlormequat. 

“In a season where every effort is going to be required to get crops rooting strongly and growing well, that could be hugely beneficial,” she added.