Trials suggest treating wheat with silicon can help to reduce the crop’s reliance on artificial inputs, shares Orion agronomist Mike Stoker.

The work was undertaken by KWS and Orion Future Technologies, and Mike says so far, the results seem promising.

“Trials using Sirius, a bioavailable liquid silicon, have shown how a wheat crop can take up more essential nutrients including iron, manganese, copper and zinc as well as silicon. This makes the plant stronger and better equipped to resist climatic and biotic stresses, which has resulted in higher yields.”

Trial purpose

The aim of the trial was to establish how different KWS wheat varieties including Dawsum, Extase, Palladium, Ultimatum and Zyatt, accumulate silicon.

Mike explains that in scavenging for the added available silicon, the plant naturally encounters and takes up increased levels of other beneficial nutrients, as well as downregulating the uptake of substances such as aluminium and sodium.

“Ultimatum had the highest accumulation of iron and showed the highest yield increase – a boost of 16%. Sirius was applied at 0.25 l/ha, and at 0.5 l/ha, to establish if a higher dose would provide better results.

“Interestingly, most varieties responded similarly to both doses, showing just a small increase in silicon uptake can provide considerable yield improvements,” he says.

Tank mixing

Furthermore, Mike believes this is due to the way Sirius mixes in the tank. “We often find lower doses remain efficacious because bioavailable silicon breaks apart in water, so using less provides the molecules more capacity to separate.

“It’s also important to add that silicon doesn’t have a detrimental effect on any other products being used, including fertilisers and plant protection products,” he adds.

KWS Extase

The most consistent improvements in the uptake of nutrients measured was found with KWS Extase – accumulated benefits to the plant brought a yield increase of 7%.

“The uptake of boron, copper, manganese, zinc and iron all increased when Extase was treated with Sirius. Added to this, once absorbed, silicon was deposited within and between the cells of the plant which increased dry matter levels and had a positive effect on yield,” explains Mike.

Challenging season

Iron deficiency is exacerbated by waterlogged soils like those seen in this growing season and Mike says this can seriously diminish yield and the final nutritional quality of crops, particularly in alkaline soils.

He further suggests that manganese deficiency has been identified as the most widespread trace element problem in UK arable crops and is also commonly associated with persistently wet soils.

“As manganese is linked with both disease resistance pathways and winter hardiness, an autumn application of Sirius lends itself to stronger cereal crop performance the following spring.

“The trials have shown that applications at T2 will provide benefits such as reduced lodging, enhanced drought tolerance and better nutrient flow into the forming grains,” he concludes.