Silicon offers hope for sustainable wheat yields

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Trials carried out by KWS and biostimulants specialist Orion Future Technologies have provided optimism for growing wheat with less reliance on fertiliser and agchem products.

Treating wheat with silicon has shown encouraging results, the work set out to establish how different KWS wheat varieties including Dawsum, Extase, Palladium, Ultimatum and Zyatt, accumulated silicon.

Orion agronomist, Mike Stoker notes: “Trials using Sirius, a bioavailable liquid silicon, have shown how a wheat crop can take up more essential nutrients including iron, manganese, copper and zinc as well as silicon. This makes the plant stronger and better equipped to resist climatic and biotic stresses, which has resulted in higher yields.”

Mr Stoker explains that in scavenging for the added available silicon, the plant naturally encounters and takes up increased levels of other beneficial nutrients, as well as downregulating the uptake of substances like aluminium and sodium.

“Ultimatum had the highest accumulation of iron and showed the highest yield increase, a boost of 16 percent. Sirius was applied at 0.25 litres per hectare, and at 0.5 litres per hectare, to establish if a higher dose would provide better results. Interestingly, most varieties responded similarly to both doses, showing that just a small increase in silicon uptake can provide considerable yield improvements,” says Mr Stoker.

He further suggests that this is likely due to the way Sirius mixes in the tank.

“We often find lower doses remain efficacious because bioavailable silicon breaks apart in water, so using less provides the molecules more capacity to separate. It is also important to add that silicon does not have a detrimental effect on any other products being used, including fertilisers and plant protection products,” he says.

The most consistent improvements in the uptake of nutrients measured were found with KWS’s Extase. The accumulated benefits to the plant brought a yield increase of 7%.

“The uptake of boron, copper, manganese, zinc and iron all increased when Extase was treated with Sirius. Added to this, once absorbed, silicon was deposited within and between the cells of the plant which increased dry matter levels, and had a positive effect on yield,” he says.

Iron deficiency is exacerbated by waterlogged soils like those seen in this growing season. Mr Stoker says that this can seriously diminish yield and the final nutritional quality of crops, particularly in alkaline soils.

He further suggests that manganese deficiency has been identified as the most widespread trace element problem in UK arable crops and is also commonly associated with persistently wet soils.

“As manganese is linked with both disease resistance pathways and winter hardiness, an autumn application of Sirius lends itself to stronger cereal crop performance the following spring. The trials have shown that applications at T2 will provide benefits such as reduced lodging, enhanced drought tolerance and better nutrient flow into the forming grains,” he concludes.

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