Trials results examined
Farmers from across the Wimmera and Mallee gathered at Birchip last week to hear how locally conducted agricultural research could potentially improve the productivity and profitability of their farm business.
Held last Friday (February 17), BCG’s annual Trials Review Day attracted a crowd of about 180 growers and agricultural specialists.
During the day BCG released the results from more than 40 trials carried out last year and discussed the key findings and take home messages.
Popular with growers again this year was a wheat and canola variety comparison presentation by BCG Research Agronomist Simon Craig.
The benefits and limitations of many current and new varieties were examined during this session.
Mr Craig revealed the best performing wheat and canola lines from last season, but stressed that when selecting varieties, growers should consider the attributes and weaknesses of each over a longer period (ideally the last five years).
He said when deciding which varieties to include in a rotation, more than just yield and quality needs to be considered.
It is also important to look at the disease profile of each variety, its maturity, physical attributes, herbicide tolerance, marketability and how well it would fit into the cropping program, Mr Craig said.
A Canadian perspective on variety selection and weed management was shared by international guest speaker, Linda Hall.
Dr Hall, a weed management and transgenic crop specialist from the University of Alberta, talked in depth about growing canola in Canada.
She said canola plantings in Canada’s cropping regions had significantly increased over the last decade – which had come at a cost to wheat tonnages.
Dr Hall partially attributed the rise in canola plantings to investment into canola research and the subsequent availability of a wider choice of improved canola varieties that were both useful as a break crop and profitable in their own right.
“It started with weed control but that is no longer what it’s all about,” she said.
Complimentary to Dr Hall’s presentation was a review of break crops in the Mallee delivered by CSIRO scientist James Hunt.
Dr Hunt shared three years of results from a trial conducted at Hopetoun which measures the effect of various break crops (canola, peas, juncea canola, wheat, vetch and fallow) on subsequent wheat production.
According to the findings of this trial, crop sequences involving a broadleaf break crop were more profitable than continuous wheat.
But it was stressed that crop sequences would be most profitable when break crops were grown to solve agronomic problems in cereal production such as grass weeds, root disease or low nitrogen levels.
“The risk of losing money on break crops can be greatly reduced if growers remain flexible with their crop selection going into the growing season and make final decisions about crop type based on soil water, nitrogen and the timing of the autumn break,” Dr Hunt said.
An address by Nick Poole from the Foundation for Arable Research (FAR) in New Zealand was another highlight of the Trials Review Day.
Mr Poole led a discussion about stem rust management and yellow leaf spot with contributions from Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Plant Pathologist Grant Holloway, seed company representatives and Wimmera and Mallee farmers.
This was followed with a discussion about leaf rust in barley led by Simon Craig, the take home message being ‘trust your variety’s disease rating’.
The day concluded with invited agricultural scientists and agronomic experts taking part in a light-hearted debate about a range of topical farming issues and complimentary refreshments.