Monday, 24 May 2010

It’s all in the genes

As wheat is coming in to ear I thought it would be timely to look at the performance of Ukrainian varieties.

Cereal yields come from three places – the number of ears you grow, the size of the individual grains and the number of grains per ear.

Most well grown crops will produce an appropriate number of ears; you should aim for around 500 ears/m2 although there is a tendency for tillers to abort late in the season making this a bit of a challenge to consistently achieve.

The weight of individual grain – the thousand grain weight – is affected by the amount of available moisture around at grain filling time and can be influenced by deep cultivations to encourage deep rooting and good disease control to keep the plant transpiring and growing for longer.

The number of grains per ear is an issue that Ukrainian plant breeders can do something about. The picture below is of a UK variety (left) and a Ukrainian variety (right) from last year. If I am being charitable the Ukrainian variety has about 50 grain sites whereas the UK variety has about 70 grain sites per ear. That’s 40% more grain sites per ear.

That, in my humble opinion will be where a significant part of the UK average 8t/ha yield comes from and where the Ukrainian average 2.9t/ha yield is lost.