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Tactical Agronomics for Crop Production Systems

Beres, B.L., 2016. Tactical Agronomics for Crop Production Systems. Tactical Farming Conference, Calgary, AB, February 10 – 11, 2016 pp71-72.

Abstract

Developing agronomics for crop production systems must first be relevant and readily-adapted to on-farm cropping scenarios. A lack of uptake, for any reason, is a failure for R&D and all research stakeholders. While sustainability and economics of agronomic practices are overarching metrics, the reality is that agronomics must target the yield gap that exists between the genetic yield potential of the varieties cultivated and the actual on-farm yield potential that is achieved with current practices. If the gap is wide, and it certainly is with some crops depending on where and how the crop is grown, does it make sense to continually invest in the latest genetics or is it wiser to focus on the farming practices that are holding up attainability of the current genetic yield? Wheat is a good example where on-farm yield is roughly 40-70% of genetic yield potential. This is compounded and, in part, caused by a lack of efficiency by wheat plants (canola is even worse) to utilize inorganic forms of nitrogen (30-50% NUE). We can also lose as much as 50% of that yield potential through competition with weeds and infestation from insect and disease pests. This isn’t to say the latest genetics should not be employed, but rather the agronomic piece has to also be updated to fully exploit genetic yield potential. So, what would are the key facets that would represent the ‘gold standard’ for an integrated crop production system? Opinions likely vary but the focus of this presentation will concentrate on the opportunities for closing the yield gap through incremental manipulations starting with pre-seed activities such preventing N losses. Careful consideration for fine-tuning seeding rates by knowing when to push them for optimum yield and crop competitive ability vs. when to pull back to ensure expression of a desirable trait ie. malt barley, stem solidness for wheat stem sawfly, etc.. Recent research has also added to the knowledge base of seed treatments and the role they can play for mitigating biotic and abiotic stress – it extends beyond just a disease or insect threat. The importance and benefits of herbicide resistant crops will also be discussed with some cautionary words around the evolution of weed resistance. The last facet discussed will focus on the importance of increasing crop diversity to enhance both the aboveground and soil features.

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