The Agronomists, Ep 5: Peter Johnson and Jeremy Boychyn on cereal selection decisions


You may not swap out wheat and barley varieties as often as some other crops, but making the right selection for a new variety is the most important one when it comes to achieving profitable yield levels.

For this episode of The Agronomists, RealAg’s Peter Johnson and Jeremy Boychyn, with Alberta’s Wheat and Barely Commissions, go head to head to discuss variety x product interactions, assessing new lines, and the pitfalls of depending on a yield monitor.

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  • Shaun makes a crack about teaching Jeremy a thing or two, ha
  • Cereal variety selection from 100,000 ft: “At the end of the day it’s all about yield,” but there are so many other things that come into play, like lodging, diseases, root structure, Pete’s going to get deep? Maybe?, there’s a whole range of things
  • Jeremy: “What Pete said,” but add to that, environment, the next step is variety selection, it can make or break it (the yield)
  • Number one management choice that you make: variety. Spend time focusing in and getting it right because it can set the stage for the rest of the season
  • Throwback clip to one of the first videos (first 5) RealAg ever shot, Crop Production Show, Shaun videoing people at a farm show, Jim Downey with SeCan
  • “As much as yield plays a huge role, lodging also plays a big part in it,” says Boychyn
  • Jokes are made about Shaun’s previous appearances.
  • As you ramp up management, it makes a huge impact of what you look for. In the UK they plant winter wheat variety trials both early and late. under full management (fungicide program), and low management. We don’t do this much in North America. In Ontario they use a fungicide, but that’s about it in their variety trials.
  • Something as simple as row width can have a huge impact on yield and how a variety performs.
  • Ohio, 7.5″ vs 15″ row, Pete talks about leaf architecture, the canopy never closes in the 15″ row width. Getting technical now.
  • As interest grows in those full-fledged regional variety trials, the funding might follow, maybe
  • Important to know if the regional variety trial is a compilation of data, or it’s truly regional data, then you have to figure out if the regional trial was replicated and randomized
  • On-farm trials are great, but use more than one quarter-section. Don’t just do one side-by side either. That’s only one “replication.” Replicate it, use three quarter sections. Listen to Pete.
  • Careful with the yield monitor, wheat kernels have a waxy coating that can interfere
  • Calibration is critical.
  • How many varieties to grow of a given class? Depends on logistics and risk tolerance on your farm.
  • Varietal blends in the same field? If you don’t have fusarium at all, then maybe you can take the risk. But if fusarium is a threat, it’s going to be so hard to have all three varieties at the same staging to go out and apply fusarium suppressing fungicide.
  • FHB risk mitigation, get that seed in the ground, have it emerge evenly, that flowering window being all at the same time can help; use varieties with good FHB resistance.
  • Introducing a new variety to a farm? What percentage of acres to trial it on? No designated answer, really. Logistics again. Depends on risk tolerance again too. Something like 10 per cent could be a lot. Pick a few fields that are enough of a contrast that they’re representative of the majority of your soils, do some strip trials.
  • Don’t just go all in though. The variety could fall apart on you. Do you have multiple years of research trial data to pull from for that variety?
  • Mike Cowbrough OMAFRA clip. What about herbicide injury on barley?
  • Variety selection in relation to herbicide injury. If the broadleaf herbicide had been applied separately from the graminicide, the wheat heads probably wouldn’t have been deformed.
  • There are real variety x herbicide interactions.
  • OK, PGRs are another factor. Moddus was just registered. How PGRs will interact with varieties will probably also become a research objective
  • Variety specific management plans? Who’s going to pay for the trials? Dr. Sherri Strydhorst (here! a Wheat School on PGR timing!)
  • Genetics x Variety x Management (GxVxM) As soon as you change one factor is there something else that changes in another factor of this equation.
  • OATS! Variety characteristics that make an oat variety better for cover crop vs for grain yield. Pete’s got the answer.
  • FHB, first outbreak was 1981 in Ont. with a few disasters along the way. Headway has been made, but genetically, no true resistance to FHB. With something like rust, one gene can achieve resistance. Pete would be surprised if there’s true resistance in the next 20 years. Not in our lifetime.
  • Yield drag is a real issue when getting into complex traits. CRISPR technology is exciting but it still has to be developed. Not as simple as it seems.
  • We might need to do a plant breeding episode.
  • To recap: yield, lodging, fertility package, disease resistance, pest issues, end use, sprouting resistance

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