One of the largest trials ever undertaken in the UK specifically looking at early drilling of winter wheat is underway in Yorkshire. Up to 17 varieties are being drilled into âfarm-scaleâ plots to determine their suitability for early drilling, combined with a range of key seed treatments and spring fungicide applications. The trials are being hosted by Hinchliffe Farms at BASFâs heavy silt, Agronomy and Biodiversity site, Rawcliffe Bridge, near Goole and will be taken through to yield next harvest.
According to BASFâs Environmental Stewardship Manager, Graham Hartwell, who is coordinating the project, a run of difficult autumns and changes in disease pressures has put early drilling of winter wheat firmly in the spotlight. He comments:
âDifficult establishment conditions in recent years, coupled with the more recent changes in yellow rust races and disease pressure has created renewed interest in early drilling from growers. But with early drilling comes an increased reliance on varietal suitability, correct seed treatment and fungicide selection.
âBASF will be evaluating BASF seed treatments as a front-line defense against yellow rust, a major component for rust-management strategies with susceptible varieties this year. We want to see how robust seed treatments cope with the new races of yellow rust as the disease exacerbates the problem of early drilling. We'll also be trialing a selection of our foliar fungicides, from the autumn through to the T3 timing in the spring and early summer, to establish optimum programmes for each variety when crops are drilled early.â
Nickerson Senior Wheat Breeder, Bill Angus, says that several of the varieties chosen for the trial are from the Nickerson stable and he believes that the company will gain a significant benefit from their inclusion. He states:
âNickerson is the only breeder with a retail arm â Nickerson Direct â selling seed direct on farm, so recommending the right seed treatment for our early-drilled varieties is an important part of our strategy.
âThe great thing about these trials is that the plots are being drilled by the host farmer with a conventional farm drill in 8-metre strips (2 x 4m passes) right across the field. The varieties go in the ground two weeks earlier than would be typical on the site and at a significant reduction in seed rate. Basically they are radically changing what they would normally do on the site.
âWeâll obviously be looking closely at varieties like Solstice, which has a revised rating of â4â for yellow rust, but we donât see that as being a major issue. However, yellow rust inoculum will be everywhere this season and with the majority of varieties included in the trial recommended for early drilling by breeders, itâll be interesting to see how they fair.â
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