Today Canada tomorrow Australia?

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The combined enthusiasm of graingrowers, government and chemical companies is ensuring a rapid changeover to genetically engineered herbicide-resistant varieties in the Canadian canola industry.

Australian experts reported on this trend following their recent study tour in Canada and the northern United States of America. They found some agricultural companies were offering farmers integrated packages of seed plus herbicide.

But they also warned Australia would have to guard against the dangers related to moving into more transgenic varieties.

One of the Australian travellers, Trent Potter of the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), said the rapid uptake of transgenic canola in Canada was paralleled by Australian plantings of triazine-resistant varieties, which this year accounted for about 45 per cent of production.

Does not affect yield

"Once we have the same variety of herbicide-resistant material in Australia I predict a very rapid uptake," Mr Potter said. "There is no yield penalty associated with transgenic herbicide resistance. There are a few worries about the weeds we have in Australia and how well the herbicides will cover them."

Canadian varieties now offer resistance to glyphosate (Roundup), glufosinate (Liberty, Basta) and others.

"To get more resistant crops in place is one thing, but we will have to develop a system in Australia where we can provide good information for farmers on how they use it. Obviously it means we need good paddock records and we will need to use different types of herbicide resistances as much as possible so they spread the risk around."

Ground Cover is providing a 'Paddock Diary' free with this issue for growers in the southern and western grain regions, to help with recordkeeping — Ed.

Mr Potter said he was particularly impressed by the amount of government funding support for biotechnology in Canada.

Deirdre Lemerle of NSW Agriculture and the CRC for Weed Management Systems suggested the establishment of a national advisory group.

"We need to provide information for farmers and advisers on how to manage herbicide-resistant crops within our farming systems," Dr Lemerle said. "Resistant crops must be combined with other chemical and non-chemical options to provide economical and long-term management of weeds."

Contact: Mr Peter Whitehouse, AgrEvo, 03 9248 6621 Mr Steve Sutherland, NSW Agriculture, 02 6938 1955