Wheat School: Waxy wheat shines in droughty climes

Do wheat varieties with higher leaf wax levels perform better in dry, stressful growing conditions?

That’s a question RealAgriculture agronomist Peter Johnson and C & M Seeds general manager Ellen Sparry tackle on this episode of the Wheat School as they tour C & M’s research site at the company’s Harriston, ON, location. Sparry notes that “waxy” wheat varieties are distinguishable by the white haze, or wax, that’s visible on the plant and leaves. She compares it to furniture polish and demonstrates how leaf wax can be removed and the buffed shine it leaves behind.

Johnson wonders whether the wax could help varieties better tolerate dry growing conditions by protecting the plant and preserving moisture in the leaf. Sparry notes that in stressful years, waxy varieties tend to have a “stronger wax layer and that would lead one to think that they certainly do provide some protection from losing that moisture out of those leaves when it get extremely dry.”

Sparry adds that several wheat breeders have told her that leaf roll is another genetic response to extreme conditions. “That’s also a response where varieties are trying to hold on to a little more moisture.”

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