Morphological and physiological responses of spring wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) to spatial arrangements

Tolmay, John Peter Cleggenett (2008-12)

Thesis (PhD(Agric) (Agronomy))--Stellenbosch University, 2008.


The adoption of the no-till planting method brought about changes to the way the wheat crop is established in the Mediterranean climate of the Western Cape. Row widths have to increase from the normal narrow rows (170-180 mm) to at least 250 mm to allow for sufficient stubble handling. Furthermore, planters are designed to place seed accurately in the soil at uniform depth, which may increase seedling survival rates. The main objective of this study was to determine the influence of the use of wide row widths on yield, the components of yield and grain quality parameters and to revisit planting density recommendations to be used with the notill planting method. On-farm, producer managed trials which included cultivars, row widths and planting density treatments were planted at Riversdale, Swellendam and Caledon in the Southern Cape region and at Moorreesburg and Hopefield in the Swartland during the 2004 to 2006 production seasons. All trials were factorial RCB designs with split-split plot arrangements. Grain yield, grain protein, hectolitre mass (HLM) and the yield components, seedlings m-2, seedling survival (%), number of heads m-2, number of heads plant-1, number of kernels head-1 and thousand kernel mass (TKM) were determined at all sites in 2005 and 2006. Seedling survival rates of 80% were easily achieved in all trials with the exception of Caledon and Swellendam in 2005. The no-till planting method may be efficient to improve on survival rates of 50-70% found with the conventional planting methods. The yield component response that raised the most concern was the clear trend of the reduction in the number of heads m-2 as row widths increased, which was significant in eight out of the nine experiments. The number of heads plant-1 decreased significantly as planting density increased in all experiments. Cultivars differed in the grain quality parameters grain protein (%) and HLM but were influenced minimally by the other treatments. Reductions in grain yield occurred in three out of eight trials in the Southern Cape and in three out of six trials in the Swartland, with reductions of between 6.8% and 33% in some seasons. The risk of yield loss due to wide row widths could not be excluded by this study and therefore the row widths used by producers should remain as narrow as practically possible. Grain yield response to increasing planting density differed between the two regions. No significant yield benefits were found in any of these trials if planting densities were increased above 175 target plants m-2. Planting densities may be reduced to between 70 and 87.5 kg seed ha-1 to achieve this target if the crop is planted in time and seedling survival rates of at least 80% can be achieved.

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