Trials to test hybrid wheats well under way – Agronomist & Arable Farmer – Stewart MacIntyre

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Hybrid wheats offer yield and grain-quality improvements over conventional wheat in terms of consistency and stability, and the opportunity to add in traits such as heat and drought tolerance or winter hardiness, says Stewart MacIntyre, Hutchinson's northern seed manager. 

Stewart MacIntyre

He highlighted the opportunity to maximise wheat production on fields that are limited in their yield potential due to later drilling date, the rotational position of the crop or just simply from site limitations - and is timely when many growers are looking closer than ever at their costs of production.

He said: "There is no doubt that in the future hybrid wheats will play a part in helping growers maximise their output whilst aligning with integrated crop management."

Hybrid wheat is a cross between two carefully selected pure wheat lines, so each hybrid variety has genes from both parents -which means it expresses hybrid vigour, the benefits of which be seen in better-developed root systems, more even plant establishment, increased tillering, early maturity and greater resistance to stress and disease, as well as other attributes which come from the combination of characteristics such as better standing ability.

In autumn 2018, Hutchinsons established a series of hybrid wheat trials across its regional technology trials sites, where any differences between hybrid and conventional wheats could be monitored, measured and potential crop management techniques trialled.

"We hope to learn much more than just looking at varietal differences and disease scores. What we are aiming for is to really understand how to properly manage these genetics using improved agronomy and digital tools," explains Mr MacIntyre.

"First results are already showing differences in tillering with the hybrids showing a greater biomass than conventionals. At our Carlisle site, the hybrids have an average tiller counts of 6, whereas in the conventional varieties it's just 4. At our Helix site in Northamptonshire, these results are replicated with hybrids producing double the number of tillers over those of the conventionals."