• winter wheat;
  • irrigation;
  • nitrogen;
  • quality;
  • grain morphology


The effects of irrigation and nitrogen (N) fertilizer on Hagberg falling number (HFN), specific weight (SW) and blackpoint (BP) of winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L) were investigated. Mains water (+50 and +100 mm month−1, containing 44 mg NO3 litre−1 and 28 mg SO42− litre−1) was applied with trickle irrigation during winter (17 January–17 March), spring (21 March–20 May) or summer (24 May–23 July). In 1999/2000 these treatments were factorially combined with three N levels (0, 200, 400 kg N ha−1), applied to cv Hereward. In 2000/01 the 400 kg N ha−1 treatment was replaced with cv Malacca given 200 kg N ha−1. Irrigation increased grain yield, mostly by increasing grain numbers when applied in winter and spring, and by increasing mean grain weight when applied in summer. Nitrogen increased grain numbers and SW, and reduced BP in both years. Nitrogen increased HFN in 1999/2000 and reduced HFN in 2000/01. Effects of irrigation on HFN, SW and BP were smaller and inconsistent over year and nitrogen level. Irrigation interacted with N on mean grain weight: negatively for winter and spring irrigation, and positively for summer irrigation. Ten variables derived from digital image analysis of harvested grain were included with mean grain weight in a principal components analysis. The first principal component (‘size’) was negatively related to HFN (in two years) and BP (one year), and positively related to SW (two years). Treatment effects on dimensions of harvested grain could not explain all of the effects on HFN, BP and SW but the results were consistent with the hypothesis that water and nutrient availability, even when they were affected early in the season, could influence final grain quality if they influenced grain numbers and size. Copyright © 2004 Society of Chemical Industry