Grains Research and Development

Date: 01.04.2005

Low-rainfall canola on the way

Photo of Dr PHil Salisbury

by Helen Olsen

Growers in low-rainfall regions may have the canola quality mustard, Brassica juncea, as a potentially profitable and reliable break crop as early as 2006. It is to be called juncea canola, to acknowledge its differences to condiment mustard in quality, end-use and agronomy.

It has been developed through collaborative research between the National Brassica Improvement Program (NBIP) in Australia and the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool in Canada.

Senior oilseeds breeder Wayne Burton, of the Victorian Department of Primary Industries at Horsham, says that its ability to grow in dry areas where traditional canola is not adapted represents a huge breakthrough after about 30 years of research into developing such a crop.

B. juncea has several agronomic advantages over B. napus in low-rainfall regions, including more vigorous seedling growth, quicker ground-covering ability, greater heat and drought tolerance and enhanced resistance to the fungal disease blackleg.

Oilseeds research leader Dr Phil Salisbury, of the Victorian Department of Primary Industries, says that B. juncea can be directheaded rather than windrowed, which should save growers about $20 to $25 a hectare. Australia-wide trials were conducted for 15 advanced B. juncea lines on 19 sites through Victoria, NSW, SA and WA.

The data show that if the control variety yielded less than 1.5 tonnes a hectare, the test varieties generally yielded more. When AG-Outback Plant Breeders Rights symbol yielded more than 1.5t/ha, the test varieties generally yielded less.

"We are really targeting this mustard for the lower rainfall regions that have been low yielding for canola. In these low yielding areas, juncea canola outyields the napus canola," says Dr Salisbury.

Due to its tolerance of heat and drought, juncea canola can also serve as a late-sown break crop for higher rainfall zones.

GRDC Research Code DAV457. For more information: Dr Phil Salisbury, 03 9884 8068

[Photo: Dr Phil Salisbury: "We are really targeting this mustard for the lower rainfall regions that have been low yielding for canola." Photo by Brad Collis]