Plant breeding takes time. Significant amounts of it, in fact. While genetic resistance to things like diseases or pests or even built-in agronomic traits like standability are the ideal, a new wheat variety may take a decade to produce, and even then, still not meet all the needs of every farmer who grows it. In the meantime, farmers have to manage the varieties they have access to the best way they can. So, for varieties that may have excellent quality and yield traits but lack standability, there are some options — like nitrogen management, plant population fiddling and the like. But when even that’s not enough, there are plant growth regulators (PGRs).
PGRs are products that impact hormone pathways in the plant, and are quite commonly used in horticulture and broad-acre crops overseas, but less-so here. PGRs aren’t entirely new, though there is a newer product making its way to Western Canada. Ethrel (active ingredient ethephon) possibly the best known product for wheat, has been registered since the early 70s, but it’s only been recently that the use of these products that make straw shorter and stronger, and thus reducing lodging, have really caught on.
In this episode of the Agronomy Geeks podcast, I’m joined by Sheri Strydhorst, research scientist with Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, who covers what PGRs are, the two most common ones western Canadian farmers are likely to use and explains how they’re used (caution: they’re darn finicky). But before we even get into that discussion, Strydhorst walks us through what the cost-saving capability of PGRs (or standability, really) is, in certain situations, and it’s significant.
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