Crops and Soils
Wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) variety mixtures represent a relatively unexplored avenue for maintaining and stabilizing yield for both organic and conventional producers. The present study examined the responses of three Canadian western red spring wheat varieties in sole crop and in variety mixtures to varying levels of simulated and natural competition, as well as environmental stress at one conventionally and two organically managed locations in central Alberta, Canada, between 2003 and 2005. Three modern hard red spring wheat varieties (Superb, semi-dwarf; AC Intrepid, early maturing and 5600HR, tall), along with 13 two- and three-way variety mixtures, were planted under two levels of simulated weed (Brassica juncea L.) competition at each of the eight location-years. The B. juncea weed competition treatment decreased yields at all locations. Overall yield was lowest at the certified organic farm and highest under conventional management. Sole-crop semi-dwarf Superb and all three Superb–Intrepid mixture entries consistently yielded among the highest, regardless of management system, testing location or competition treatment. The 1:1 and 1:2 Superb–Intrepid mixture entries were the most stable of all entries tested. Early season vigour was strongly associated with yield, with the strongest correlation occurring under low-moisture, low-nutrient, high-competition conditions at the certified organic farm. Spring wheat variety mixtures may provide greater stability with little or no reduction in yield, while providing greater competitive ability.
(Received November 03 2008)
(Online publication December 23 2008)