Safflower could have a tactical role to play in southern farming systems, according to Nick Wachsmann, of the Joint Centre for Crop Improvement near Horsham.
He says that as a spring-sown crop it allows cultivation and broad-spectrum herbicides to be used for weed control, so inhibiting the development of herbicide resistance. It has a deep taproot, which can dry out wet soils; it is a break crop for cereal diseases, and is a valuable cash crop in its own right.
With GRDC support, Mr Wachsmann recently surveyed farmers who are growing safflower, and those who are not, to define limitations to further adoption.
He found safflower growers were producing this oilseed primarily to control weeds but also to spread sowing and harvesting workloads, to break cereal disease cycles, for soil water use purposes, to make money from the seed, and to improve soil health.
"One-third of respondents sowed safflower in spring if paddocks became untrafficable in autumn/winter or if they had a failed winter crop due to waterlogging or disease," he said.
"Those who are not growing safflower cited yield/ marketing/price issues as the principal reasons, along with unsuitable environmental factors, and a lack of information.
"However, most of this group said they would consider safflower if gross margins improved."
Program 2.5.2 Contact: Mr Nick Wachsmann 03 5365 2222