Oaten hay big export commodity

Truck carrying crop

With WA growers sowing almost twice as much oaten hay for export as their eastern counterparts, the WA-based Grain Research Committee (GRC) has investigated oaten hay export issues.

Three years of experiments showed Winjardie, Euro and Carrolup to be the highest-yielding varieties, with acceptable export quality, producing in excess of 9.2 t/ha, with Euro the highest at 9.6 t/ha. (Carrolup does have the disadvantage of being very susceptible to crown rust.)

These are among the findings of a project headed by private consultant Pierre Fievez and supported by growers and the Western Australian Government, through the GRC. The trials set out to determine the best (including mid-season) varieties and the most economic seeding and fertiliser rates for oaten hay production.

Other varieties produced lower yields, including Bettong, Marloo, Mortlock and Swan. These varieties are exported, although Swan is not accepted by some exporters.

Pallinup, which delivered 10 per cent lower yields than the big three, also suffers from being excluded by some exporters. It does offer a superior disease rating, which sometimes leads to an overall improvement in the green leaf content of the hay.

A South Australian line, OX 88083-4, has produced 9.9 t/ha over three years of trials, but, although released this year, it won't be available in WA until 2002.

Among the mid-season varieties, Vasse produced the best yield at over 11.5 t/ha. The trials suggest that a late-April planting of Vasse would give high production and a crop that matured at a suitable time for hay cutting and curing.

Seeding rate

The preferred seeding rate was 100 kg/ha. In a late-planted trial, a more economic response was gained from raising the seeding rate to 150 kg/ha, rather than applying extra nitrogen.

Conversely, increasing the seeding rate on fertile soils ran the risk of lodging. In a New Norcia trial, a seed rate of 160 kg/ha delivered a yield 13 per cent lower than plots planted at 80 kg/ha.

Nitrogen application delivered the most economic returns when applied at 80-160 kg N/ha, but was sometimes accompanied by Oat variety trial, Williams WA, October 2000. From left: unnamed variety, Euro and Winjardie lower water-soluble carbohydrate levels in the hay.

Potassium

The trials also tested for yield response, suggesting it was profitable to add potassium when the soil test levels were lower than 80 ppm. The addition of potassium did reduce some of the adverse quality effects resulting from high nitrogen rates.

These trials have established a knowledge base for oaten hay growers to work from when planning future production strategies, hopefully building on the strong foundation of oat production already evident in the GRDC’s western region.

Future research needs include a better understanding of the role of trace elements in oaten hay production.

Program 2.3.3

Contact: Mr Pierre Fievez 08 9385 6655

Region North, South, West