Queensland hope for short season canola
The first full-scale canola trial in Central Queensland is looking promising, highlighting the steady geographic progression the oilseed crop is making as new varieties have increased climate adaptation.
Grower Peter Mifsud from Clermont in Central Queensland exemplifies the mix of curiosity and optimism that comes with trying a new crop. He has planted 60 hectares of the CB™ Jardee HT™ variety, along with smaller trials of 10 other varieties. By early spring he said the crop seemed to be doing well, but added: “I haven’t grown it before, so I am not actually sure what it should look like now… we’ve sprayed once to control aphids.”
Local agronomist Tony Matchett says canola was trialled, without success, in the region 10 years ago. “The varieties then had too long a season. You need it to flower and to produce pods before the hot weather comes in. Once it gets too hot, the crop just won’t flower, or it won’t fill the pods.”
Traditionally, canola has been more of a crop rotation fixture for the western and southern grains regions, where production is forecast to be slightly down this year. In September the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences was forecasting a 2.8-million-tonne canola crop, down two per cent on 2011’s bumper crop, with forecast falls of 15 per cent in WA, nine per cent in Victoria and three per cent in South Australia, while production in NSW is forecast to increase 23 per cent.
Mr Matchett began trial work on canola in 2011 when he was regional manager for Delta Grain in Central Queensland. This work focused on varieties that had been released in the preceding couple of years and were “very short season varieties”.
He says plots sown late, at the end of May, still produced commercial yields of 1.2t/ha: “We thought, with that sort of success with a late crop, it was worth extending our coverage of varieties to be able to plant on time.”
This year, 17 canola varieties are being trialled at the Emerald, Queensland, campus of the Australian Agricultural College Corporation.
“The varieties were all selected because they are short-season and because they offer the different range of herbicide packages that go with canola,” Mr Matchett says.
By early spring, all the varieties had flowered and begun forming pods.
Mr Matchett says the aim is to introduce another crop into the winter rotation in Central Queensland, which is currently dominated by wheat and chickpeas. “I saw that canola could fit into that environment and provide another break-crop option for wheat.”
Mr Matchett says if canola can be grown successfully in the region, it could help create a local, sustainable oilseed industry.
“The potential to introduce a local oilseed-processing plant in Central Queensland could be more justified if it has a winter oilseed crop like canola, as well as sunflowers grown in summer and the cotton seed crop as well.”
Mr Mifsud, who farms 3500ha with his wife Kim and son Andrew, grows wheat and chickpeas in winter, and sorghum, sunflowers and sometimes maize or cotton in summer. He has been experiencing problems with feathertop Rhodes grass and needed an alternative broadleaf crop to chickpeas for the winter rotation.
He planted his canola in April, saying the shorter growing season of CB™ Jardee HT™ appeared to suit the region. “It is a bit quicker to flower, and that is what we wanted.”
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