Establishment blues, but still better than chickpea

St George, Queensland, graingrower Bob Baker in Hyola 42 canola stubble. Mr Baker likes canola better than chickpea.

It was a mixed canola year for Bob Baker, of Karee, St George, Queensland, even if he did finish with the State's top known yield for the season — 1.875 t/ha with Pacific Seeds' hybrid variety Hyola 42.

A mixed year, because emergence failure on his moderately heavy black coolabah soils saw Mr Baker harvest only 150 hectares from a total 440 hectares planted into limited moisture. Besides Hyola 42 Mr Baker planted the varieties Monty and Oscar, and post-harvest he declared himself 'pretty happy' with yields which varied from the top 1.875 t/ha down to 1 t/ha.

The St George farmer is one of Queensland's more experienced canola growers, first planting the crop in the 1980s, when he says technology and knowledge about canola were nowhere near as advanced as they are now.

"We've probably had six or eight crops of canola since we began sowing it in the 1980s," Mr Baker says. "We hardly got a planting rain through most of the 1990s.

"Although canola is accepted as not being good for VAM levels, we've always found we grew a better crop of wheat than after chickpea, for instance. (See update on VAM p12 — Ed.)

"We've had side-by-side paddocks where we planted wheat after canola and after chickpea, and the performance after canola has always been better. I claim that's because canola finishes earlier, while chickpea is still sucking all the moisture it can get out of the ground in the hot dry season finish we have out here, but the scientists don't agree with me on that.

"Chickpea also leaves your country very dirty because there are so few weed control options. I know chickpea did well in the Maranoa this year and, because crops were Ascochyta-free, returns will be better than for canola. I think you have to look at returns over two or three years rotations to really see the value of different crops."

All Mr Baker's canola, along with some following wheat, was planted deep, although not with moisture-seeking tines.

"I know it's not the done thing with canola, but it was the only option because of limited soil moisture," he said. "When it started to emerge we dug down in the paddock and found some seeds that had come up from four or five inches (100-125 mm) down."

Mr Baker says he found Pacific Seeds Hyola 42, despite 'expensive seed', a top-yielding canola variety, even-ripening and with an upright growth habit. All three of his varieties were direct-headed, and he admits to 'coming unstuck' when a windstorm the night before harvest took a toll on his paddock of Oscar, considerably reducing yield.

In 1999 Mr Baker also planted a 2-hectare trial of five canola varieties in collaboration with the GRDC's Northern Canola and Western Farming Systems projects.

Programs 3.5.1, 2.5.1

Contact: Dr Bob Martin 02 6763 1100

(Western Farming Systems), Dr Mike Robertson 07 4688 1200 (northern canola)

Region North