Experiments with spring barley in 1975–7 tested fungicides applied to control powdery mildew (tridemorph) or brown rust (benodanil) in factorial combination with six amounts of fertilizer N, applied either to the seed bed soon after sowing, as a later top dressing or half at each time.
Powdery mildew was the principal leaf disease in all three years. It tended to be increased by increments of N and by applying the N late but much less consistently in the first two years, when soils were very dry for much of the growing period, than in 1977 when amounts of rain were much closer to the long-term mean. Tridemorph significantly increased the number of ears in 1975, mean number of grains per ear in 1976 and 1000-grain weight in all three years; it gave net increases in grain yield of 0·55, 0·68 and 0·41 t/ha, respectively, in 1975–7. Yield response to increasing amounts of applied N was greatly increased where mildew had been controlled by the use of tridemorph, and was better where the N had been divided into two dressings than where it had been applied as a single dose. In 1975 and 1977 the biggest responses to tridemorph were obtained with late N but in 1976 yield was increased most by tridemorph where the N had been applied to the seed bed.
Analyses of samples taken in 1977 showed no significant effect of tridemorph sprays on concentrations of either N, P or K in the green crop. By contrast, analyses of grain samples in 1976 and 1977 showed that amounts of N in grain (mg N/grain) were affected by amounts of applied N and by tridemorph, and that there were interactions between these two factors. Concentrations of N in the grain (% D.M.) were also determined by the effects which these factors had on grain size. At small N rates tridemorph mostly increased grain size so that N concentrations were decreased by the fungicide. At large N rates increases in grain size where tridemorph had been applied were accompanied by increases in the N content of the grain (mg N/grain) so that N concentrations were either unaffected (1976) or were increased (1977) by the fungicide. With 90 kg/ha of applied N the fungicide increased the amount of N/ha removed in grain by over 21 % in each year. The apparent recoveries of N in these plots were increased from 66 to 81 % and from 87 to 105%, respectively, in the two years. Tridemorph had no significant effect on concentrations of P or K in the harvested grain but increased average amounts of these nutrients removed in the grain by 17 and 14%, respectively, in 1976 and by 14 and 7% respectively, in 1977.
Examination of black and white, infra-red aerial photographs of the experiments showed that, in each year, the brightness of individual plot images was significantly correlated with grain yield.
Complex designs without division into blocks are especially vulnerable to positional variation. Alternative methods of adjusting for such positional variation were compared in analyses of grain yields. The potential improvements in precision which might be achieved by the appropriate use of such analyses, and the difficulties of ensuring that unacceptable subjectivity and bias are not thereby introduced into the analyses, are discussed.