ADLib Glossary (C)

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Cereal Lodging and its Control

Lodging is the collapse of the cereal stem when it can no longer support its own weight. All cereal crops and all varieties are susceptible to varying degrees. Two types of lodging occur in cereals: root lodging and stem failure. Root lodging occurs early in the season and it is the most common type of lodging. Stem failure or stem breakage occurs later in the season as the stalk becomes more brittle due to crop maturation.

Severe lodging is very costly due to its effects on grain formation and associated harvesting problems and losses. It takes about twice the time to harvest a lodged crop than a standing one. Secondary growth in combination with a flattened crop makes harvesting difficult and can subsequently lead to poor grain quality and low yields.

Effective prevention requires a knowledge of the causes. Lodging occurs when gravity pulling the crop to the ground is greater than the counter forces within the plant keeping it upright. Failure will occur at the weakest point. Lodging has a range of causes. It could be:

  • Over-tall or over-heavy stems. This may be caused by excess nitrogen fertiliser, early drilling or a high site fertility.
  • Narrow stems or thin / weak walled stems. This may be due to high seed rates or too thick a canopy.
  • Poorly spread, insufficent or shallow crown roots. This may be due to high seed rates, late drilling, take-all or excessive nitrogen fertilisation.

It is therefore important that the true cause is identified in any control strategy. Management should centre around matching varieties to the site and the local situation. For example, a poorly rooting variety should not be drilled late, at high seed rates into a poorly consolidated seedbed. Until recently crop protection options were limited however, there are now improved products available which can strengthen stems, reduce crop height and improve rooting systems.

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