Mar 14 2023

How winter cereals could benefit from a biostimulant this spring?

Preparing crops for spring

Cereal crops are looking full of promise following the kind winter, with growth stages in wheat and barley now at mid-late tillering in many regions. Now is the time to consider whether crops could benefit from a biostimulant to keep them powered up heading in to spring. At this time of year, special focus should be on maximising rooting and tiller health as these are crucial for water, nutrient and sunlight capture – key determinants for yield.

Key strategies:

  • Maximise root growth out of winter
  • Protect tiller health & support energy demand
  • Eliminate early season stresses


Maximise root growth out of winter

Early spring is a crucial time to support root development. Good rooting, especially deep rooting, will enhance crop growth if water or nitrogen is limiting later in the season.

Some nutrients are not very mobile in the soil, so the bigger the root system you can produce, the better. 

Crops grown in light soils will need longer roots due to lower water holding capacity of the soil.

And if you’re cutting back on nitrogen you will need to consider implications on root, as well as shoot growth.

Applying amino acid biostimulants high in glutamic acid, such as Bridgeway, are a great way to promote root growth.

Power crops to beat stress with biostimulant Bridgeway

Biostimulants can provide significant rooting benefits

Extensive research at the University of Nottingham shows the effects of early season biostimulants on root growth can be significant.

6 separate research projects have shown an average 52% increase in root biomass with an average root length increase of 13.9cm from applying Bridgeway at 2.0 L/ha to young cereal plants. Using Bridgeway at 1.0 L/ha also produced significant root mass increases of 43%.

Research has showed Bridgeway to be best in class when tested against Calibra Carbo, AminoA Flo and Terrasorb – see the results here.

The impressive increases in rooting could be vital to help build a more resilient crop if water and nutrients become limiting later in the season. Spring/summer droughts are becoming increasingly prevalent, and rainfall so far this year is already significantly behind the expected average for this time of year.

Cutting back on nitrogen? Biostimulants can help maximise uptake 

Latest trials show that reducing nitrogen beyond 60% can reduce root (and shoot) growth but biostimulant Bridgeway helps plants compensate:

  • At 100% N (where N = 80kgN/ha) Bridgeway increased rooting by 39% over untreated plants
  • Reducing N down to 60% didn’t affect root growth all that much, whilst Bridgeway increased rooting significantly – by 45%
  • Applying N at 30% reduced root growth significantly but applying Bridgeway more than compensated for the root mass loss, increasing rooting by 46%

Could winter cereals benefit from a biostimulant this spring?

Protect tiller health & support energy demand

Green canopy duration is a key determinant for yield so its vital to take care of tiller health and number to protect yield potential – this is particularly important in barley where there is a direct correlation between ear numbers and yield. The benchmark maximum for a late September to early October-sown wheat crop with 260 plants/m2 is 1,020 shoots/m2 by early April. In barley, shoot numbers should be at 1,180/m2 by GS30.

It is also important to bear in mind that as crops start to pick up the pace out of winter, fuelling the heightened energy demand is key, particularly if cutting back on nitrogen. 

Consider a biostimulant application from mid-tillering to help.

Biostimulants can help maximise shoot growth

Trials show Bridgeway increases shoot growth significantly and can therefore be a valuable means of optimising canopy size out of winter. 

In the research Bridgeway added 30-35% shoot mass, depending on the nitrogen rate applied.

Could winter cereals benefit from a biostimulant this spring?

Could winter cereals benefit from a biostimulant this spring?

Biostimulants can increase N uptake 

As part of the research, a nitrogen analysis was carried out to measure the amount of nitrogen in the leaves. All Bridgeway treated plants had higher levels of nitrogen in their leaves, compared with untreated plants, which showed Bridgeway was more efficient at helping the plant to take up the nitrogen.

What’s more, at the 60% trialled level of nitrogen the Bridgeway treated crops had as much nitrogen in their leaves as the untreated at 100%.

Chlorophyll increases & enables higher rates of photosynthesis

SPAD meter readings, used to measure greenness (chlorophyll), showed Bridgeway treated plants had significantly higher levels. This is vital for helping to increase the efficiency of photosynthesis. 

The results support measurements from commercial crops and trials with increases in macro/micronutrients and higher Brix readings. You can see more results here – p22-23


Could winter cereals benefit from a biostimulant this spring?

Eliminate early season stresses

Keeping crops powered up and stress-free early in the spring is an important strategy to help boost the natural resilience of plants.

This is where amino acid biostimulants can play a useful role, if used at the right time, as amino acids are the building blocks of protein and play a vital role in crop development, nutrient uptake and stress mitigation. 

Your crops make amino acids and proteins using the nitrogen fed to your plants, but in times of stress protein synthesis can come to a grinding halt and they must break them down to access the amino acids needed for stress defence. Amino acid metabolism and catabolism is extremely energy intensive for plants, and so feeding them amino acids proactively is much more efficient for healthy development.

Biostimulants help provide resilience to adverse conditions

So what stresses are we referring to? Abiotic stresses such as:

  • Heat / cold
  • Water logging / drought
  • Nutrient deficiency
  • Fertiliser scorch
  • Applying crop protection products to your crops

Keeping your crops free of these stresses will improve fitness during the season and support the host defence system of your plants, also helping to reduce the incidence of disease. 

Significant disease reduction & yield benefits from incorporating Bridgeway

To have the maximum effect on the host defence mechanism, biostimulants should be applied in advance of the stress trigger.  Applications from mid-tillering (pre-T0) have been shown to be the most effective for disease. Variety trials at NIAB in 2020 showed that Bridgeway significantly reduced yellow rust infection and increased yield and margin over input cost in low and medium disease resistant varieties. You can view the results below and other trials results here.

NIAB trials showed significant yellow rust reduction with Bridgeway

Bridgeway increased yields

Best use advice

Could your winter cereals benefit from a biostimulant this spring? If the answer is yes, to get the most from your biostimulant application it is important to consider what you want to achieve. We would suggest the following:

  • To maximise rooting – early applications are key – apply from mid-tillering out of winter, and growth stage 12-14 if you want to use in your spring cereals
  • To protect against stress – for best results apply 3-5 days before the anticipated stress, or immediately after if you need remedial action. You can make regular top ups in season if required
  • You can apply alongside crop protection applications to minimise stress to plants
  • Bridgeway can be used in a very wide range of crops – see right for our recommended timings and rates. In sugar beet, if applying with herbicides, the use of an oil adjuvant must be avoided. Bridgeway will assist uptake anyway
  • For technical advice or questions please contact Stuart below
  • You can also download our Bridgeway handbook here


Get in touch

Require technical assistance or product information? Please get in touch with our Technical Manager, Stuart Sutherland.

For all other general enquiries, please email or call us at the office. If you’d prefer, drop us a message using our contact form and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

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