News in brief

Mace replacement

A new wheat variety Scepter is being promoted as a step-change in yield and rust resistance in taking forward the advances delivered in the successful Mace variety that was released in 2009. Mace presented a big step forward in performance and profitability over its parent Wyalkatchem. Higher yield, Australian Hard quality and better sprouting tolerance saw it grow in popularity.

The breeding company Australian Grain Technologies (AGT) – of which the GRDC is a shareholder – says Scepter takes these gains further. In head-to-head tests across 42 locations (from northern Western Australia to southern New South Wales), Scepter is reported to have out-performed Mace at 41 of them. On average, from 2012–14, Scepter was 10 per cent higher yielding than Wyalkatchem and seven per cent higher yielding than Mace in WA.

Scepter is said to look and behave similarly to MaceA and would fit into the same position in existing rotations. Additionally, Scepter has shown improved leaf rust resistance and flowers about two days later.

More information:

Josh Johnson, AGT
0408 495 035
NVT new varieties

Lupin release

A new narrow-leafed lupin variety, PBA Jurien, was recently released at the Mingenew Irwin Group Spring Field Day, Western Australia.

Pulse Australia industry development manager – western region, Alan Meldrum, says PBA Jurien is higher yielding than the PBA Barlock variety in lupin-growing areas across WA. “For Mandelup growers, the average yield increase is about 10 per cent,” Mr Meldrum says.

He says PBA Jurien has good anthracnose resistance and is moderately resistant to bean yellow mosaic virus, making it the most suitable variety for WA’s west and south coast areas.

“However, for growers supplying lupin end users with high protein requirements, such as Coromup growers, PBA Jurien may not be a suitable replacement. Its protein level is equivalent to the Mandelup variety.”

More information:

Alan Meldrum, Pulse Australia

Nevenka McLennan, Seednet

Nitrogen finding

Researchers from the University of Western Australia (UWA) have challenged the current understanding about which microorganisms carry out nitrogen transformations in semi-arid agricultural soils. Understanding which microorganisms are responsible for nitrification is critical to nitrogen management.

The research, recently published in Nature Publishing Group scientific reports, concluded that ammonia-oxidising bacteria are responsible for the majority of soil nitrification activity in semi-arid agricultural soils, not ammonia-oxidising archaea, as in other soils.

Research fellow Dr Natasha Banning from UWA’s School of Earth and Environment and Institute of Agriculture, who co-authored the paper, said the results challenged the most recent understanding about which microorganisms are responsible for nitrification.

“For years, scientists thought nitrification was only carried out by nitrifying bacteria,” she said.

“Then, advanced molecular techniques showed that another group of microorganisms, called archaea, are also capable of nitrification.

“So thinking shifted to accepting that ammonia-oxidising archaea dominate the bacteria in nitrification of acidic soils … but this was found not to be the case in the acidic agricultural soils in WA.”

Dr Banning said although archaea were present, ammonia-oxidising bacteria were dominant in the soil surface area where most nitrification activity occurred.

This new understanding should help improve farm management strategies for minimising nitrification and nitrogen losses and increasing fertiliser use efficiency.

More information:

Dr Natasha Banning

08 6488 3969


The use of backpacker labour to hand-weed wild radish is the focus of new research in Western Australia’s northern agricultural region.

The GRDC Regional Cropping Solutions Network in the Geraldton Port Zone has initiated a short-term project led by Planfarm’s Peter Newman.

Mr Newman, who is also the Australian Herbicide Resistance Initiative’s communications leader, says years of excellent weed management meant some growers had reduced wild radish numbers to fewer than 10 plants per hectare – a density that may make hand-weeding viable.

“Their weed densities are particularly low this season because they achieved a good knockdown on radish prior to seeding crops, and there was little follow up rain in May to germinate more weeds,” he says.

“These growers don’t want to undo their hard work by allowing the few remaining wild radish plants to set seed, but blanket spraying the whole paddock with herbicides is very expensive.

“We want to calculate the cost and practicality of hand-weeding these paddocks to see if it is viable.”

Mr Newman says trials at three Mullewa sites were assessing the efficacy of hand-weeding wild radish using backpacker labour and developing costings for a range of wild radish densities.

More information:

Peter Newman

Young growers look to expand

Research shows growers younger than 45 years of age are more likely than older colleagues to boost investment in technology, infrastructure and employment in their businesses.

The latest biannual Agri Insights survey by the Commonwealth Bank reports young growers are investing strongly in their businesses, indicating strong optimism for the future.

The survey reported that younger growers had adopted new technology, employed additional staff and boosted investment in infrastructure.

Tim Harvey, the Commonwealth Bank’s general manager regional and agribusiness banking New South Wales, says the research findings show that younger growers are excited about the future: “Younger growers understand the importance of being proactive in building their business and their focus is very much on investing for the future,” he says. “I’ve met with many innovative younger growers who are increasingly using technology to expand capacity, streamline processes or develop new business models around share farming, co-operatives or leasing land.”

More information:

Nichole Willson, Commonwealth Bank


Cheers to barley


Variety declaration checks to protect markets

Region South, West