24 Apr, 2002 10:00 PM


WHEAT growers in irrigated and high rainfall areas across Australia could soon achieve consistent yields of 7-8t/ha or double the current average.

Irrigated wheat hasn't reached its yield potential due to lack of suitable varieties that will not lodge, or fall over, at high yields.

But new research, supported by growers and the Federal Government via the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), will help identify wheat genotypes able to boost grain quantity and quality under irrigation.

The research covers irrigated wheat in the Murray, Murrumbidgee and Lachlan valleys in NSW and Victoria, but could also apply to WA's high rainfall south coast.

The project will work with Topcrop/Wheat Check to develop management packages to help growers maximise yields.

The link with Topcrop ‹ a major grains industry improvement program supported by the GRDC ‹ is important as Topcrop uses on-farm trials, crop monitoring, benchmarking and group discussions.

This will help find the most suitable varieties for irrigated wheat production.

CSIRO Plant Industry researcher Maarten Stapper ‹ an experienced irrigated wheat agronomist ‹ will head the project, with former Jerilderie grower and now CSIRO officer Ross Harvie in charge of experimental work.

Research trials will begin this season to evaluate varieties and breeding lines on an experimental station, demonstration farm and biological agriculture farm.

According to Dr Stapper, about 60 genotypes will be evaluated, including current varieties as standards, such as WA's Camm, Cascades and Wyalkatchem.

Promising breeding lines for high yields were also selected, with the ideal type having a height of 80cm and strong, thick stems.

Breeding lines were sourced from national wheat breeding programs and CIMMYT.

Growers across the three valleys will evaluate two or three varieties, with nitrogen management trials on a paddock scale.

Plant growth and yield characteristics will be measured under a range of pre-sown and top-dressed nitrogen treatments.

"Along with the Topcrop data and management details, these will provide a varietal development, growth, yield and quality comparison across management and districts," Dr Stapper said.

"We intend developing an instrument to measure stem and whole plant flexibility and strength to compare these characteristics between genotypes and management practices to minimise lodging risk."

He explained that identifying stable genotypes, with a better definition of genotype, yield and nitrogen interaction, would lead to the planting of a larger area of irrigated wheat, higher yields and more efficient use of irrigation water.



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