Optimising canola profitability through new understandings
Author: Sharon Watt | Date: 13 Jan 2016
Despite canola being nationally embraced as a valuable break crop and oilseed commodity, further opportunity exists for growers to optimise production and profitability.
A five-year Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) project, launched in 2014, is aiming to provide growers with a better understanding of the drivers behind canola’s development to help improve management of the crop and variety selection.
Growers and advisers will be able to use information generated from the project to help select a suite of varieties that are suited to sowing opportunities that most often occur in their district and also to exploit early or delayed sowing opportunities as the seasons dictate.
Leader of the South Australian component, Port Lincoln-based Andrew Ware of the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), says despite the success of canola in Australian cropping systems, significant gaps remain in the underlying knowledge of canola physiology and agronomy.
Mr Ware said this situation was exacerbated by canola’s expansion into new areas and the release of new technologies, including vigorous hybrid varieties bred for herbicide tolerance.
The project, entitled 'Optimised canola profitability – understanding the relationship between physiology and tactical agronomy management', will involve physiological and agronomic research across nine cropping zones in the GRDC southern and northern regions, from SA’s Eyre Peninsula to southern Queensland.
“Although growers recognise the high profit potential and the farming system benefits of canola, there remains a perceived risk of growing canola largely due to the high level of inputs required, such as seed, nitrogen fertiliser, sulphur fertiliser and windrowing,” Mr Ware said.
“There is a need to determine the level of investment appropriate for these inputs on a regional scale and the agronomic management practices (for example sowing date decisions) that reduce the overall risk and increase the profitability of canola.
“Sound tactical agronomic decisions require an improved physiological understanding of yield and oil formation in canola, and how they are affected by variety or genetics, environment, and crop management, and the interaction of these three, that is, the G by E by M,” he said.
“Varietal maturity ratings don’t always correlate with varietal phenology. Early sowing may provide a great opportunity to maximise canola yield, but selection of the correct variety is important.
“Canola yield and profits will improve through an increased understanding of canola physiology.”
Mr Ware said this would occur through:
- Identifying the optimum flowering window to minimise heat and frost risk at specific sites
- Identifying the variety x sowing date combinations that match the optimum flowering window
- Managing biomass accumulation (of specific varieties) to maximise water-use efficiency, optimise nitrogen use efficiency and minimise input costs
Having optimised these steps, he said further investigation may reveal specific varietal adaptations that provide a yield advantage under specific stresses, such as heat, drought and frost, or provide further G x E x M synergies.
Mr Ware said information generated by trials being conducted under this project will add value to other trial results, such as the GRDC-funded National Variety Trials (NVT) and help explain difference in varietal adaptation and performance as a starting point to growing more profitable canola.
“The manner in which each canola variety develops can have a large influence on the resulting yield when planted at different times and in different environments.
“Going forward, there will need to be a focus on the development and delivery of information on new varieties in a way that is timely and relevant to growers and advisers.”
Andrew Ware, SARDI
Sharon Watt, Porter Novelli
Caption: Andrew Ware, of the South Australian Research and Development Institute, says despite the success of canola in Australian cropping systems, significant gaps remain in the underlying knowledge of canola physiology and agronomy. Photo: Emma Leonard/SARDI