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Research to Boost Canola Yields in Australian High Rainfall Zone

24 May 2012

AUSTRALIA - Canola cultivars and management practices that contribute to rapid early growth are the key to high yields in Western Australia's (WA) high rainfall cropping zone, according to new results from a three-year research project.

The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and CSIRO are co-funding the research by Perth-based CSIRO senior research scientist, Dr Heping Zhang.

The area is expected to play an important role in future growth in grain production and high rainfall zone research includes trial sites near Kojonup run in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture and Food WA (DAFWA) and members of the Kojonup Crop Research Group.

“CSIRO has been interacting with canola breeders from WA and across Australia to provide information on plant physiology and development traits that are associated with high yield in the high rainfall environment of south western WA,” Dr Zhang said.

“Just like in other regions, rapid early growth is important. Differences established early in the season are carried through to flowering and are eventually reflected in crop yield.”

Dr Zhang says this holds true whether the focus is on variety choice or agronomic management decisions such as fertiliser or seeding rate.

“Importantly, while increasing inputs provided significant yield benefit in good years, it did not penalise the crop in bad years as canola has that flexibility,” he said.

“Of course, in bad years there was no return on the additional investment in the higher inputs.”

Dr Zhang says varieties that had higher early growth rates, such as hybrids, or which matured later also gave a significant yield benefit in good years.

“As for management inputs, while these choices did not express their higher yield potential in dry years, at least they did not result in a yield penalty.”

Researchers now aim to use the results of the field experiments to test the APSIM canola model.

This will allow the results to be extended across a number of soil types and locations within the region. Importantly, it will also help growers and researchers know what to expect in terms of year-to-year variation.

“We think there is a big need for more research to improve the management of canola across all of regions of WA, especially with the increasing diversity of new varieties becoming available,” Dr Zhang said.

TheCropSite News Desk

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