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Light quality illuminates the importance of early season weed control
Light quality – not just quantity – is being altered in farmers’ fields because of weed competition.
Jessica Gal, a Masters student at the University of Guelph, has found reductions in root surface area, volume, and number of root nodules as a result of altered light quality.
Light quality is composed of low-red light and far-red light, which soybeans respond to. The presence of weeds reduces the ratio of red relative to far-red light – a signal to which soybeans respond.
Proximity of any weed has been proven to alter light quality, which reduces yields by changing both shoot and root structure.
Gal says this study emphasizes the vital importance of early season weed control, which ensures a plant’s well-being.
University of Guelph Professor Clarence Swanton has conducted similar research with corn, and advised Gal on this study. His research associate Maha Afifi has worked closely with Gal in lab work for this year and a half experiment.
This research was sponsored by Syngenta and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). •
Control weeds before they emerge
Research on the effects weeds have on soybeans and other crops in the early stages of development allows farmers to know the best time to control weeds.
Graduate student Andrew McKenzie-Gopsill and Professor Clarence Swanton from the Department of Plant Agriculture at the University of Guelph are understanding how early soybeans can detect changes in the light quality being reflected off other plants, such as weeds.
They are finding that, during emergence, a plant’s photo receptors (light-sensitive proteins that allow plants to alter their growth) sense a potential threat for sun when a neighbouring plant is nearby.
“The crops meet their neighbours as soon as they emerge,” says McKenzie-Gopsill.
When that happens, the shade-avoidance response occurs. That is, the plant diverts energy from root growth to the stem, so it can grow above the invading weeds.
This reaction is a problem. Underdeveloped roots mean water-and-nutrient delivery to the plant is limited. Under drought conditions and other stresses, these crops might not survive.
Farmers should control weeds before the plants emerge, so growth is not affected.
This research is funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and Syngenta. •
Winter wheat research to focus on locally adaptable varieties
Ottawa is granting more than $400,000 to the Ontario Cereal Industry Research Council (OCIRC) to support research efforts at the University of Guelph into winter wheat gluten quality.
Led by Guelph Food Science Professor Jayne Bock, the study’s results will help farmers benefit from locally adaptable winter wheat varieties that meet buyers’ changing preferences.
Pierre Lemieux, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture, said the research will help identify traits such as protein functionality that will lead to enhanced milling and more product uses.
“Winter wheat is a significant contributor to Ontario’s economy,” says Lemieux. “This research is expected to increase the value of winter wheat and expand market opportunities for Canadian producers.”
Ontario grows more than 70 percent of Canada’s winter wheat and members of OCIRC consider this research “strategically important” to stay ahead in the winter wheat market.
According to OCIRC President Henry Olechowski, “advancing our understanding and application of protein functionality in winter wheat will enable our sector to be more innovative in processes and products.” •
Research Roundup is provided by members of SPARK (Students Promoting Awareness of Research Knowledge) at the University of Guelph’s Office of Research. For more information, contact a SPARK writer at 519-824-4120, ext. 52667.