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Trials show value of stronger varieties in ‘lower input’ regimes

News - 19.10.23

John Miles, Agrii seed technical manager, explains why variety choice is the primary consideration when planning cultivation regime, drilling date and fungicide strategy.

When it comes to cultivating wheat, not all varieties are created equal. The choice of variety significantly influences cultivation success. In the pursuit of reduced tillage and lower input production methods, Agrii conducted extensive trials to explore how wheat varieties perform under different establishment regimes and crop protection programs.

Comparing Establishment Regimes

The trials, conducted in Huntingdon, Essex, Kent, and Dorset from 2021 to 2022, delved into the relative performance of wheat varieties under direct drilling versus deep cultivations.

The goal was to understand the implications for output and disease pressure, with a keen eye on incorporating biological crop protection agents.

Direct Drilling vs. Plough-based Establishment:

On the surface, direct drilling and plough-based regimes showed little difference in average yield. Across all 18 varieties grown side-by-side in Huntingdon and Essex, the average yield under direct drilling and plough-based regimes were almost identical at 10.6t/ha. 

However, nuances emerged when analyzing specific varieties, sites, and regimes.

The seed rate for direct drilled plots for instance, was raised to 425 seeds per metre compared with the plough at 350.
Our aim was to achieve the same plant stand in both techniques.


On the Hanslope series clay at the Huntingdon site, direct drilled crops faired best, but the question is why?

Ear counts were only slightly better at +7% and while plant counts were similar ahead of the winter.  NDVI aerial imagery captured by Bayer in the New Year reveal the impact that the wet weather in January had on plant biomass.  

The NDVI Image Reveals The Impact Of The Wet Winter On Plant Biomass In The Plots Sown After Drilling. Image courtesy of Bayer CropSciences

The result, where the direct drilled plots outyielded those sown following the plough, was not entirely unexpected given the biomass differences which remained all season.

We believe in this instance the ploughed ground held onto too much moisture, so the plant environment became adverse during February resulting in loss of biomass shown by the NDVI image. 

Huntingdon Variety Establishment Trial Results:

Huntingdon Trial Results | Agrii 2022

In Essex, plough-based approaches fared better due to challenges faced by direct-drilled plots. The consistent performers across both sites included KWS Extase, Gleam, Graham, and LG Skyscraper.

Essex Variety Establishment Trial Results:

Essex Trial Results | Agrii 2022

Variety Performance Insights

The variety performance at both the Essex and Huntingdon sites was also telling.  On the higher-yielding Huntingdon site, the varieties standing out for relatively better direct drill versus plough performance were similar to those that stood-out overall.  

Their direct drilling advantage was, however, much greater here at more than 1 t/ha.  

Equally, only three varieties performed less well under direct drilling.


Good and bad performers in the Agrii direct-drilled variety trials

Early vs. Late Drilling

Dorset Trial

In Dorset, the trial explored the performance of high-yielding feed wheats, Gleam, and Fitzroy, under different drilling dates.

Early October drilling exhibited a significant yield advantage, emphasizing the importance of aligning variety choice with drilling date and establishment regime.

Dorset Establishment Trial | Agrii 2022

Disease Resistance and Fungicide Strategies

The trials also provided insights into disease resistance under various establishment regimes. Fitzroy, with superior disease resistance, outperformed Gleam, highlighting the value of selecting robust varieties for early drilling strategies.


Biological Crop Protection Trials in Kent

In a large-scale trial in Kent, the advantage of stronger varieties extended beyond drilling date and establishment regime.

Robust varieties showcased the potential for incorporating biological products in place of traditional fungicides, providing valuable insights for growers seeking sustainable alternatives.


Kent Disease Management Trial Results:

Kent Disease Management | Agrii 2022

A Wealth of Insights for Growers

As you plan your cultivation strategies and cropping plans, remember that variety choice is paramount. Whether it's drilling date, soil type, or disease resistance, selecting the right variety can make a significant difference in your yield and overall success. Our trials provide valuable guidance for maximizing your wheat cultivation efforts.

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