Sowing dual-purpose canola early in the season has the potential to increase profitability for growers within high rainfall zones, according to findings from a South Australian Grain Industry Trust trial based in the state’s south east.
The three-year project, led by PIRSA’s South Australian Research and Development Institute senior research officer Amanda Pearce, compared Clearfield-tolerant, Triazine-tolerant and conventional canola varieties at different sowing times with grazing treatments.
Ms Pearce said the trial was designed to provide insight to local growers on ways to boost canola crop profitability. Many growers are looking to the longer season winter canola varieties for their dual-purpose flexibility.
The biomass production, grazing potential and grain yield of each variety was evaluated after each year of the trial.
“To date, the research has shown that long season canola varieties such as Clearfield can produce dry matter production without having a yield penalty when sown early in the year,” Ms Pearce said.
“We did notice differences between those two sowing times in May; the early sowing time resulted in greater biomass production and feed quality of the canola produced.”
Other project findings included that profitability of canola as a dual-purpose crop can vary between years and feed tests are crucial in determining the quality of feed available.
“Integrating dual-purpose canola into the cropping program and livestock enterprises requires growers to be flexible and ready to sow if the opportunity arises,” Ms Pearce said.
Triazine tolerant canola biomass production and grain yield tended to be lower than that of CL varieties during the project.
“A longer season TT variety may have a potential fit as a dual-purpose canola option for the High Rainfall Zone of the south-east of South Australia, while the inability to control and manage broadleaf weeds in conventional canola make them an undesirable option in the region, where weed burdens can be high,” Ms Pearce said.
The project has the potential for major industry impact, with the use of a dual-purpose canola in a cropping program with a livestock enterprise potentially able to provide a longer and more flexible grazing window and an opportunity to spell more valuable pasture paddocks.
“There is also the potential to gain biomass value in addition to grain production,” Ms Pearce said.
“The use can provide weed control options to improve subsequent pasture establishment and break crop benefits to subsequent crops.”
Ensuring grazing does not occur too early was an important factor in canola’s success as a dual-purpose option, according to Ms Pearce.
“Growers want to make sure they wait until the plant is anchored, as canola crops can be grazed quite hard,” she said.
Data from this trial can be viewed in the Mackillop Farm Management Group’s annual results books.