Best practice agronomic management is a grower’s greatest ally in the quest to optimize canola profitability and capitalise on the crop’s significant rotational benefits.
Current research is delivering important data on phenology, time of sowing and nitrogen requirements which, if considered and managed well, have the potential to add substantial value to the productivity and profitability of canola crops across New South Wales and southern Queensland.
As the most important oilseed and broadleaf rotation crop in Australia, canola is generally recognised for its high profit potential and value to the wider farming system.
Industry specialists say canola’s high input levels have led to perceptions of risk, which growers can address by keeping pace with up-to-date agronomic management recommendations and new varieties.
Results from the Optimised Canola Profitability (OCP) project were a key discussion topic at the recent Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Grains Research Update at Wagga Wagga, with attendees keen to attain the latest insights into the integrated management of varietal selection, agronomy practices, crop nutrition and diseases.
Launched in 2014, the Optimised Canola Profitability project is a five-year GRDC supported initiative spanning nine production regions from southern Queensland to the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia and aims to provide sound tactical agronomy advice underpinned by improved crop physiology insights.
This project involves research partners CSIRO Agriculture and Food, South Australia Research and Development Institute, NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) and aims to provide growers with guidelines to select varieties that are suited to sowing opportunities in their region and to exploit early or delayed sowing opportunities as seasons dictate.
Addressing growers at the Wagga Wagga Update, NSW DPI research agronomist Rohan Brill said research to date had largely focused on investigating the interactions between sowing date and variety choice as it relates to phenology, biomass accumulation, grain yield and oil concentration.
An understanding of varietal phenology as well as characterisation of a particular environment enables varietal choice and sowing date decisions to target optimum flowering time to set sufficient yield potential and to reduce frost, heat and moisture stress risks during reproductive development.
“The OCP project has demonstrated that there are some varieties that have a wide planting window, allowing sowing opportunities to be captured when they arise, that can often match the yields of later-sown varieties,” Mr Brill said.
“Such varieties may not always be the highest yielding but do offer greater flexibility to the farming system.
“In contrast there are fast developing varieties that should only be planted late in the sowing window to avoid reduced grain yield potential and increased disease risk.”
The research found that early sowing (early April) of canola exposes the inherent phenological differences between commercial canola varieties, making varietal selection extremely important for performance.
In the very high rainfall season of 2016, slower developing varieties maintained consistent yield across sowing dates while faster developing varieties generally achieved their highest yield from a late April sowing.
Early sowing limited the yield of fast developing varieties due to early flowering which increased exposure to fungal diseases and reduced biomass and yield potential.
Mr Brill said the research trials found a strong relationship between final biomass and grain yield but with certain varieties demonstrating an ability to more effectively convert biomass into grain yield (higher harvest index).
He said nitrogen (N) trials had also been conducted with results confirming canola’s high N demand.
“The best variety choice and sowing date management without appropriate N management is a lost opportunity,” he said.
“Growers need to ensure that approximately 80kg/ha of N is available to the crop per tonne of targeted grain yield.
“With declining levels of soil fertility generally, this means N requirements are being met more and more by fertiliser rather than soil reserves.
“Aiming to plant canola in high N situations will greatly reduce the risk associated with growing canola.”
Information from the canola research project will also be presented at upcoming GRDC Grains Research Updates including Goondiwindi on March 7 and 8 2017 and Bellata on March 10 2017.