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Determining Which Wheat is Best in a Wet Harvest

20 February 2012

AUSTRALIA - Research into the sprouting tolerance of new and current wheat varieties will help growers select wheat that is most suitable for their area.

With more than 80 per cent of Western Australia’s export wheat destined for the bread market, it is vital growers are sowing the right variety for the amount of rainfall they might receive before harvest.

Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) research officer Kevin Young said the research, funded by the Department and Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), into the effect of rainfall amount and timing was essential to determine the level of sprouting tolerance in new wheat varieties.

“Growers know that sprouted grain causes end users a number of problems, especially with sticky dough, poor loaf volume and crumb structure, and poor slicing,” Mr Young said.

“As a result, grain can be heavily discounted depending on the degree of sprouting. Last year’s harvest showed how severe the impact of rain could be when widespread rain caused downgrades and large financial losses.

“This research will enable growers to make more informed decisions on their choice of wheat variety, to grow in relation to the likelihood of rain occurring at harvest.

“We know that sprouting tolerance is largely controlled by grain dormancy and the level of dormancy can be greatly affected by temperature, availability of soil moisture and rainfall during grain formation.

“Pre-harvest sprouting of some varieties can be highly variable, not only between seasons but can also vary greatly within a paddock.”

The research aimed to estimate the level of pre-harvest sprouting tolerance of new and established Western Australian wheat varieties after exposure to either natural or simulated rainfall in a field trial at Esperance.

Mr Young said it was found that a combination of several seasons of field samples, rain simulator samples and germination index should be sufficient to classify wheat varieties for pre-harvest sprouting tolerance into five categories.

“Based on the data analysed during the 2011 trial, none of the 20 varieties tested would be classified as tolerant. Seven varieties - Janz, Eagle Rock, Sapphire, Yitpi, Scout, Envoy and Estoc - would be classified as moderately tolerant,” he said.

“Breeding companies are currently in the process of developing varieties, using parental lines derived from Chinese and South African germplasm, which would be classified as tolerant.

“Growers should keep in mind that the grain dormancy present after maturity reduces in all varieties over time. This means that while all varieties have a varying degree of tolerance at maturity they all become more susceptible the longer they are left in the paddock.”

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