New seed breeding initiative will help growers get greater productivity from soils

  • Varieties play valuable role in protecting soils

  • Crops optimised to cultivation system

  • More ‘self-contained’ functional varieties a priority

Developing varieties that contribute to growers getting more from their soil and helping them protect it for the long-term is a key objective of KWS’s new ‘Sowing for Peak Performance’ (SPP) breeding initiative, says the company’s Dr. Kirsty Richards

“SPP is based on the premise that 80% of what your crop can deliver is locked into the seed you buy and its match to your own individual growing conditions.

“Whilst you can fine-tune this with the correct Nitrogen levels, using fungicides wisely to protect it from disease and paying attention to basic management principles, once you’ve made your seed choice your production potential is largely set.

“We’ve identified five key grower needs that will underpin all our future breeding development and these form the foundation of our SPP initiative.”

One of these is the achievement of greater productivity from soils long-term, she explains.

“Stronger growing varieties with fast speed of development and good ground cover have potential to outcompete weeds more easily plus stiffer straw means you’re unlikely to be as reliant on PGRs and achieve easier, quicker harvesting.

“We’re also focusing on N–efficiency. Varieties that are more efficient at utilising valuable Nitrogen result in more of this being used for growth than being lost from the system.

“Such varieties will not only deliver obvious benefits to the environment they will also transform production economics, too.”

Soil Improvement

Savings on inputs translates into more than just reducing direct spend on these commodities, she adds.

“The less time you spend applying agrochemicals and fertilisers in the future, the more you are saving on labour, diesel and machinery wear and tear and, ultimately, replacement.

“The less time and money spent on managing crops the less time you will hopefully spend in the tractor cab.

“Less travel means less potential damage to soils and less time and money spent trying to correct the compaction problems associated with multiple wheelings and carrying out operations is unsuitable conditions.

“For example, varieties that allow earlier harvesting mean you have more chance of avoiding the worst of the autumn weather and gives you more time to prepare land properly and in a manner that reduces soil damage to a minimum.

“It also gives you a greater choice of crop options whilst varieties with greater flexibility over drilling date avoid the problem of potentially undrilled fields that could be exposed to soil erosion over the winter.”

We’ve identified five key grower needs that will underpin all our future breeding development
Dr. Kirsty Richards, KWS Knowledge Transfer Manager

Varieties matched to cultivations

In the future, we could have varieties less reliant on specific seedbed conditions with the real possibility of seed optimised for zero and minimum tillage operations, she says.

“Our fundamental belief is that genetics can respond to the demands of the years ahead in a way not seen before and KWS will be at the spearhead of this revolution, developing varieties that not only carry our hallmark yield and quality advantages, but that add a whole new range of functionality too.”

As well as developing varieties that facilitate better soil management, KWS is also putting a priority on those that help growers maximise production and profitability from their existing resources, she points out.

“Achieving as much yield as possible from land and resources is an important objective for all growers in the future. Whilst KWS varieties are already top performers with respect to this, it will remain a key breeding priority in the future.

“An increasing focus will be the development of varieties that allow individual growers to make full use of their soil type, growing conditions and location to markets.

Other drivers include focusing on helping growers achieve effective crop management with reduced windows of opportunity as a result of climate change and achieving optimum crop health without a high level of agronomic interventions, Kirsty Richards explains.

“More variable growing conditions put more abiotic stress on growing plants as well as often producing the type of weather conditions and micro-climates that encourage the development of yield-sapping diseases.

“Breeding varieties with high levels of resistance to the most damaging diseases has been a key KWS aim for many years and our current portfolio is strong proof of this with some of the highest scores for resistance to Septoria, Mildew and Rusts on the RL.

“This line of development will continue with a focus on new varieties that need less agronomic intervention, cost less to produce and deliver higher returns, too.”

Find out more about Sowing for Peak Performance
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