Multi purpose wheat for cooler climes

Rob Johnson of 'Clavering " Grenfell, NSW, in Wylah wheat.

GROWERS of Australian Hard (AH) in southern NSW now have a new option - an AH variety that has the sowing time flexibility of a winter wheat.

Wylah bred by the NSW Department of Agriculture at Wagga Wagga and released through SGB Australia in 2000, is a new high-quality variety that gives growers the option to sow very early, graze the crop and still have the potential for high yield.

Principal of the Hawthorne Pastoral Co., Bob Conolly of The Rock, 30 km south of Wagga Wagga, has grown Wylah~> for two years. As a seed producer, Hawthorne Pastoral Co. first grew seed for SG B in 2000. This year SGB agreed to the grazing of its seed crop 'as an experiment'. The results look remarkable.

"We sowed the Wylah~ ' in March and had three steers to the acre (7.5 per ha) grazing on the crop from the end of April to the end of July. The steers came off with a big weight gain, and now the Wylahm looks like producing a big yield* of high protein grain," Mr Conolly said.

Before Wylahm, Hawthorne Pastoral Co.'s steers would have been grazing pastures of triticale sown for the same purpose. "The advantage of Wylah~> is that we can sow it earlier than the triticale and it won't run up into ear - so there is more grazing to be had - and on top of that, the price for the grain should beat triticale every time."

For Andrew Roberts and his son Murray, farming 600 mm rainfall country between Cootamundra and Wallendbeen, NSW, Wylah will help spread their risk. "Farming these days is a high-risk business and with high inputs you can't risk things going wrong," Mr Roberts said. "We need to grow four or five wheats here to reduce our risk from frost damage. Wylah, with its very early sowing window, gives us another option."

The Roberts have also reduced their sowing rates to reduce costs and the risk of high screenings - they increased rates, originally at 60 kg/ha, to 85 kg but they are now back at 60 kg/ha.

A seed grower and prime lamb producer, Mr Roberts also crops 450 ha of wheat, canola, narrow-leafed lupin and oats. "We grew WylahO' for SGB in 2000 and got 6 tlha. This year will not be so good, but we are still hoping for about 5 tonnes," Mr Roberts said. The Roberts' seed crops have not been grazed, but Mr Roberts thinks that Wylah will stand on its merits as an AH variety in their district. "Next year we expect to put Wylahm into our own cropping program in place of Rosella and Diamondbird. With the yields we havc had and the premiums for AH and protein, it just makes good sense," said Mr Roberts. (Wylah(1) also has a lower risk of grain shedding from the head compared to Diamondbird or Dollarbird - Ed.) NSW Agriculture's Cereal Chemist Helen Allen backs up Mr Roberts' comments. "Wylah has excellent milling quality and good extensibility.

Unfortunately its dough strength is too low to be classified as a Prime Hard variety, but its balance of quality characteristics should be ideal for the domestic milling trade and AH export class," Ms Allen said.

Low screenings - another important quality characteristic - is the reason Rob Johnson, brother John and father Clive have been impressed with Wylah. Running a mixed farming property between Grenfell and Forbes, NSW, the Johnsons grew Wylahm for seed last year and put in 33 hectares this year."Screenings have been our problem," said Mr Johnson.

"We have used Rosella for grazing and then recovery for grain, but often got downgraded for high screenings.

"This year we sowed Wylah on 30 April, grazed it with 500 ewes and 500 weaners for a fortnight in July, and we have just harvested 3.6 t/ha at 11.5 per cent protein and 2.5 per cent screenings, "Mr Johnson said. The Johnsons' Rosella, also sown on 30 April and grazed, yielded about the same, but had 9.4 per cent screenings.

Wylah is subject to an end-point royalty of $1 per tonne and growers must enter into a contract to pay the royalty on all seed delivered. The royalty is shared by the owners of the variety, NSW Agriculture and the GRDC. Mr Johnson worries that growers may be paying twice - once through the GRDC levy and again through the end-point royalty, but acknowledges that the royalty will be reinvested in R&D. For Hawthorne Pastoral Co. the royalty is not a problem.

"If people have spent the money developing the variety they are entitled to a return - just as long as there is one in it for me as well;' Mr Conolly said. For Wylah it looks like there is.

Mr Andrew Roberts 02 69421141 Mr Robert Johnson 02 6347 8114 Ms Helen Allen 02 6938 1802

Region National, North, South, West