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It seemed as though Mother Nature had a cruel sense of humor this year. Some growers felt as though she never turned off the water faucet; whereas others were left to scratch the parched soils in wonder. Despite these challenging conditions, you can guide your growers to help their crops maximize water and nutrient uptake when faced with dry spells, beginning with the seedling.
Protecting the Root System
            When a young seedling is developing, it’s important to take steps to protect the delicate root system from damaging diseases and insects. Overall healthier root systems can then develop, and the crop can establish a stronger stand because the root tips can more efficiently take up water and nutrients. “Roots are water-absorbers for plants, so increasing root mass, area and number of root tips subsequently increases the moisture uptake of the plant, which thereby increases the health of the plant," explains Wayne Pedersen, Ph.D., emeritus plant pathologist at the University of Illinois.
Pedersen has been using root scanners to assess root health in corn for several years. With root scanners, he can actually quantify the number of root tips produced by each plant and assess the overall health of the root systems. He plans to conduct some of the same research in small grains in the near future.
 “Healthier, more robust root systems absolutely help plants better utilize available nutrients and moisture," Pedersen adds. “This helps produce stronger plants that are able to withstand stress brought on by adverse weather conditions, disease and insects. 2010 is a great case in point. We had great early-season moisture and growth, which produced strong, healthy root systems and plant stands. But then Illinois went completely dry and remained that way for a good majority of the summer. The stronger root systems helped carry the plants through the dry spell without compromising yield.
 “Seed treatment fungicides, like Apron XL®, do a great job of creating a barrier against root diseases like Pythium. Dividend Extreme® seed treatment fungicide is number one in small grains and provides excellent protection against Rhizoctonia and Fusarium, as well as other root rots," Pedersen explains.
“An added benefit is that you can apply Cruiser® seed treatment insecticide at the same time, which protects against damaging root feeders, like wireworms, and also helps stimulate plant growth and increase crop vigor, even under stressful conditions. That combination really helps to improve the health of the roots and plants, which ultimately leads to increased yield potential," Pedersen adds.
Additionally, a new experimental fungicide seed treatment from Syngenta is set to be registered later this year and will offer a new, unmatched level of disease protection through its new mode of action. The result will be stronger, more powerful roots that help produce more even emergence, improve nutrient and moisture uptake, and develop stronger plants, which ultimately leads to increased yield and profit potential for growers.
Eliminate Early-season Weed Competition
            Once the crop has established a strong, healthy stand, growers should then turn their attention toward reducing early-season weed competition. Weeds that emerge before or with a wheat crop steal valuable water and nutrients and thereby reduce yield potential.
“The ability of weeds to compete and limit wheat yield will vary depending on the weed species," explains James R. Martin,Ph.D., extension professor at the University of Kentucky. “For example, Italian ryegrass is the most competitive weed in wheat in Kentucky. One ryegrass plant per square foot can reduce wheat yield by approximately 4 percent. As much as 90 bu/A of yield loss of wheat has been measured in research trials on ryegrass."
The similar growth habit of cereal crops and Italian ryegrass contributes to its aggressive and competitive nature, robbing the crop of valuable nutrients and water. This can result in significant yield reduction.
“In terms of broadleaf weeds, common chickweed tends to be more competitive than purple deadnettle or henbit," Martin says. “In no-till plantings, infestations of common chickweed can reduce potential wheat yield by 14 percent. Fields planted to no-till wheat often require a foliar-applied burndown herbicide, such as paraquat or glyphosate, to minimize both grass and broadleaf weed competition."
Gramoxone Inteon® and Touchdown® brand herbicides are two options you can consider recommending to your growers. They can be applied before or after wheat planting but before wheat emerges.
Once the crop has emerged, actively scouting and making timely herbicide applications will help keep the crop ahead of yield-robbing weeds. Syngenta offers a diverse herbicide portfolio to help you guide your growers through their toughest grass and broadleaf weed problems. Axial® Star and Sierra™ cross-spectrum herbicides are the two newest additions to the Syngenta cereals herbicide portfolio and can help growers combat early-season weed competition. Use the guide below to help your growers develop a management plan that will rid their fields of water- and nutrient-robbing weeds.
Syngenta Cereals Herbicide Portfolio
Axial XL grass herbicide delivers superior broad-spectrum control of mixed annual grasses in both wheat and barley with excellent crop safety. Key weeds: green foxtail, yellow foxta

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Our vast portfolio of cereals products helps growers control the weeds, insects and diseases that threaten yield.

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