Cost benefits of functional traits often underestimated
The costs benefits of combining such traits should not be underestimated, says KWS product development manager John Miles.
“Functional traits such as disease resistance, standing power and earlier harvest date can simplify management and reduce production costs to a much greater degree than many currently believe.
“Secondary factors such as savings in diesel, labour, machinery replacement and better soil condition can multiply the benefits many times over and help producers meet the requirements of integrated pest management (IPM) demands and environmental legislation much easier.
“It’s too easy to look at good standing power, for example, and think it’s a trait that might save you a bit on growth regulators, but when you look at the risk with regard to the potential effects of lodged crops the cost benefit implications are much more significant.”
There are the initial saving on PGRs, but with lodged crops, costs can escalate per hectare when you start to factor in extra diesel, labour and machinery hours, he explains.
“The worst case scenario in a catchy harvest is that it starts to affect next season’s crops due to remedial cultivations or soil damage occurring. This may be a ‘worst case’ but it’s still a risk that could be mitigated by variety choice in the first instance.
“In terms of KWS’s Group 2 winter wheat Extase, if you combine fungicide reduction due to a lower risk situation at £60/ha with retention of premium at £171/ha using the RL’s 11.4t/ha yield for the variety, the value of these adds up to £231/ha.
“With our Group 3 variety Firefly, we estimate the greater security in the field, reduced PGR and drying costs combined with premium retention is worth about £140/ha.
“It involves a change of mindset but focusing on what a variety brings to your management in terms of functional traits alone could produce cost benefits equivalent to 20% extra yield – it is that significant.
“This is borne out by the £231/ha additional benefits from Extase before factoring in the cost advantages of earlier ripening and earlier harvesting and its effect on timeliness throughout the critical autumn period.
“At approximately, £75 - £80/ha for seed on-farm, this suggests around a 300% return on investment is possible from functional traits alone before higher yields are accounted for.
“Whilst developing new varieties and producing seed is always costly and time consuming for breeders, these gains represent sizeable opportunities for growers. These gains are likely to be even more in the future.
“SPP brings all that thinking together to offer varieties specifically aligned to production challenges and market requirement whilst delivery tangible results for growers on the ground in terms of environmental advantages and cost benefits.”