Cereal variety trials typically give researchers great insight into yield, disease tolerance, standability and a host of management considerations to help growers pick the right variety for their fields.

In this year’s Ontario Spring Cereal Performance Trials, researchers are also getting a good look at the impact herbicide choices can have on cereals.

In this video, OMAFRA weed specialist Mike Cowbrough takes a close look at the spring barley trials at the Elora Research Station and highlights the role variety choice can play in herbicide injury, including distorted awns and heads that contribute to 10 to 20 percent yield losses.

Cowbrough explains that varietal susceptibility is the only difference between the injured and non-injured plants in the test plots, which had the same grass and broadleaf herbicides applied on the same date and under similar environmental conditions.

To avoid herbicide injury in cereals, Cowbrough says it’s important to understand varietal differences. He recommends that growers keep a close eye on performance trials and talk to their seed suppliers and trusted local agronomists to ensure they make the best herbicide selection for their varieties. He also discusses two other important considerations to reduce herbicide injury: avoiding applying herbicides under extreme environmental conditions and ensuring you don’t spray too close to the reproductive stage of the crop.

One thought on “Knowing your variety helps avoid ‘gnarly barley’

  1. I am writing re the article “Knowing your variety helps avoid ‘gnarly barley’. With all due respect to the researchers involved they seem to have missed a key and very critical aspect of the situation where they suggest this experimental situation indicates significant genetic differences for herbicide damage among barley breeding lines in the breeding plots at the U of G. The key error is that since all the barley lines were planted at the same time and had herbicide applied at one time, different lines in the trial would have been at vey different stages of development when the herbicide was applied. In typical plant breeding trials of this sort those differences can easily be several days between individual lines in the trials.This means that the herbicide was applied to many lines at the incorrect plant development stage resulting in differential reaction to the herbicide due to differences in plant development not differences in genetic susceptibility to herbicide damage. This is not an uncommon happening in breeding trials where weed control operations simply cannot be realistically done at the correct time for each individual plot. As was pointed out in the video this is sometimes exasperated by the particular conditions at the time of herbicide application which may have led to enhanced activity and thus more evident damage in some plots than usually seen. It may also have been more notable than usual if for reasons related to growing conditions in this season, differences in relative stage of plant development between the barley lines was greater than usual or that this particular set of trials had a wider than usual range of differential maturity between lines than usual. This does not mean that there might not be differential reaction of barley genotypes to various herbicides but to determine that a study needs to be designed to specifically evaluate that. What the observation do demonstrate is that depending on timing of application and environmental conditions at the time of application herbicide damage can occur as is the case with essentially all crop kind/herbicide combinations.

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