Evaluation of straw yield potential of cereal crop cultivars

Principal Investigator

Ellen Sparry

Research Institution

Ontario Cereal Crop Committee (OCCC)

Project Start

January 2017

Project End

October 2017

Objectives

  • Measure cereal straw yield by variety in Ontario Cereal Variety Performance Trials at New Liskeard, Palmerston and Winchester in Ontario.

Impacts

  • The collection of straw yields for cereal varieties will improve cereal producers’ business risk management, as straw can provide additional revenue to cereal producers, to maintain cereals in the rotation as a profitable component and improve livestock producers’ management of straw supply for their own operations.

Scientific Summary

While small cereals have been shown to improve the climate resilience of crop rotations by stabilizing soil health and yields, cereal acres continue to lose ground to corn and soybean in Ontario. Straw yields for cereal varieties cannot be predicted by either grain yield or plant height. Straw yield information will allow producers to better evaluate the total potential economic value associated with cereal production and enable livestock producers to manage their supply of straw for their own operations. This will assist in keeping small cereals as a profitable option within crop rotations in Ontario. Maintaining cereals in the rotation provides tremendous soil health and crop resilience benefits. The straw yield information generated on commercial varieties will also provide farmers with the best information available to supply the expanding straw markets that both exist and are developing. Besides straw for bedding and livestock feed, the demand for crop residues for the production of bio-fuels and other bio-products to replace petroleum-derived products is increasing as new technologies are developed. Cereal straw is a feedstock that can supply many of these market opportunities. Regardless of whether the straw is left on the field or taken off for other uses, the carbon sequestration within the increased biomass supports carbon capture climate initiatives.  An increase in the amount of biomass produced by cereal crops will contribute to the reduction of atmospheric greenhouse gases (GHGs) through the sequestration of carbon in the soil, as crop residues are incorporated into the soil either directly or in livestock manure.

In this project, straw samples for each of the oat, barley, spring wheat and winter wheat cultivars entered in the Ontario Cereal Variety Performance Trials were collected and moisture content was measured at three of the locations, so that accurate dry matter straw yields could be determined. For several decades, the Ontario Cereal Crop Committee (OCCC) has annually evaluated the relative performance of the cereal cultivars grown in Ontario for grain yield, agronomic traits and end-use quality through variety performance trials conducted at multiple locations across the province. With the exception of one location in northern Ontario, straw yields have not been measured in the OCCC trials due to a lack of research equipment to determine straw yields. While the exact numbers vary each year, the OCCC annually tests approximately 35 cultivars of winter wheat, 25 of spring wheat, 25 of barley and 25 of oats. In order to accomplish this, two research plot combines were modified to collect and weigh the straw of each of the oat, barley, spring wheat and winter wheat cultivars entered in the Ontario Cereal Variety Performance Trials.

As a result of this project, there are now 4 combines and 6 test locations that are able to provide straw yield data across different growing areas. Straw yields were provided to Ontario producers through the annual OCCC Performance Trials Reports, which are publically available on the OCCC www.gocereals.ca website. Straw yield data generated from this project are included in the OCCC database for long-term analysis, which is available to the public on the website in the ‘head-to-head’ comparison area.

External Funding Partners

This project was funded in part through Growing Forward 2 (GF2), a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists in the delivery of GF2 in Ontario.

Grain Farmers of Ontario is the province’s largest commodity organization, representing Ontario’s 28,000 barley, corn, oat, soybean and wheat farmers. The crops they grow cover 6 million acres of farm land across the province, generate over $2.5 billion in farm gate receipts, result in over $9 billion in economic output and are responsible for over 40,000 jobs in the province.