Improving wheat yield

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Once the world’s largest individual wheat grower, the late Sir Eric Smart would have been proud to see a scholarship in his name help two agricultural science students from The University of Western Australia conduct research into improving the productivity of wheat.

Agricultural science undergraduate students Ms Jacinta Foley and Mr Sean Randell were awarded the Sir Eric Smart Scholarship through The UWA Institute of Agriculture to complete their fourth-year research projects. Both students were also supported by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), and Jacinta also received a Hackett Alumni Honours Scholarship.

Ms Jacinta Foley investigated the influence of sowing depth on wheat seedling emergence, early growth and rooting patterns. Her research demonstrated that deep sowing results in poorer early growth and delayed emergence of wheat.

“Deep sowing wheat should only be considered for use in targeted environments, such as those with extremely low and variable rainfall conditions where greater access to deep stored soil water is required,” Jacinta said.

“The results suggest sowing wheat seeds at 3cm depth is optimal for free or restricted-tillering wheats in order to achieve good emergence and early growth.”

Mr Sean Randell’s research aimed to improve the efficacy of Harvest Weed Seed Control (HWSC) on brome grass, an emerging annual weed in WA which has evolved resistance to a number of herbicides.

The efficacy of HWSC systems is dependent on the retention of weed seed to crop maturity. Through a series of pot and field trials, Sean applied a chemical plant growth regulator, TE, and crop competition to manipulate brome grass growth and development to improve seed retention above harvest height.

“The chemical and physical methods not only results in lower weed seed production, but subsequently results in higher proportions of seed located above a harvest height of 15cm, allowing them to be removed at harvest,” Sean said.

“These results will ultimately help to reduce the reliance WA farmers currently have on herbicides, prolonging their future efficacy.”

Jacinta was supervised by Hackett Professor Kadambot Siddique, Adjunct Professor Jairo Palta, CSIRO and Dr Yinglong Chen from UWA’s Institute of Agriculture and School of Earth and Environment.

Sean was supervised by Senior Research Fellow Michael Walsh and Professor Stephen Powles from UWA’s School of Plant Biology and the Australian Herbicide Resistance Initiative.

Period11 Nov 2015 → 12 Nov 2015

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