Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Day 15 - Back in the Fields

It was an early start on Day 15 of the Nuffield trip  with an appointment in Ashburton, the heart of the Canterbury Plains with Graeme Jones, Arable Business Manager for PGGWrightson Seeds.  PGGW are a seed producing company who grow and market many small seeds around the world.  The New Zealand climate, soils and water place them in a unique geographical position to take advantage of benefits.  PGGW contact many growers in the area to grow grass seeds, clover, brassica, legumes, herbs and maize for export around the world.  Many of the grass and clover seeds are exported to the UK.
Graeme has been an agronomist helping out top growers in the district, and further a field, grow very large crops of wheat.  We talked about the agronomy of wheat crops for a couple of hours and covered a large range of practical measures and local practises here in Ashburton.  One of the main differences between NZ and UK practises are the low seed rates used here.  Top growers are aiming to establish about 450 ears/m2 from a spring population of about 120 plants.  This is significantly lower than many plant populations in the UK I would suggest.  Looking at the crops in the field it is noticeable how different the canopy structure is.
We also talked about nitrogen timings and quantities.  Obviously growing higher yields will require a great input of Nitrogen, which might be tricky under the UK NVZ and RB209 regulations.  But the big crops are using that nitrogen with better utilisation as it is applied before a rainfall event or in front of an irrigation pass.

I left Graeme and headed to the PGG Wrightson trial site at Kimihla for a field day looking at more agronomy trials.  I met up with Steve Shorter in the wheat breeding trial plots.  Some of the untreated varieties where being hammered by Brown Rust (Leaf Stripe) which is rampant in the hot dry climate.  I don't hunk ones like this will get through the selection process!
There were also trials there of Bayer Crop Sciences  newest fungicide Aviator, which is not yet released here in New Zealand.  It’s performance looked very good in the field plots.  
Interestingly there was also a trial run in conjunction with FAR (Foundation for Arable Research) looking at Septoria control with different fungicides.  
The plot is mist watered 4 times a day to get the right environmental conditions for active growth and the disease was really rampant.  Some older triazole chemistry was having little effect on the disease which could indicate resistance.  This could be an issue in the future and shows the need to have a varied approach as part of a resistance strategy. Above is Rob Craigie (from FAR) demonstrating the rapid progress of the septoria fungus heading up the plant.

That evening I teamed up with three other scholars for dinner; two traveling from the UK, Rob Thornhill and Davina Fillingham  and our host, local Christchurch scholar Natasha King.  We spent a lovely few hours talking about our travelling experiences, who we had met and what we had experienced.  Thanks to all three for a great evening to round up a great day.

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