Canola coping with cold dry weather

29 Jun, 2006 07:00 PM
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DESPITE its reputation for being the first plant likely to come under threat from a dry start, this season's canola crop is coping with the cold and dry conditions better than expected.

As the first crop planted in most rotations each year, it was expected large tracts of canola planted across the nation on the back of May rains would have fallen victim to moisture stress by now but this is not the case.

The situation remains desperate through growing areas in the Wimmera and south-east South Australia but many growers have been amazed at how well the crop has hung on with extremely limited moisture.

Growers planning to re-sow paddocks, inspected paddocks late last week and have decided to hold off for now.

Oilseeds WA executive officer John Duff said approximately 90pc of WA's canola crop went in the ground by mid June with only a small area remaining.

Mr Duff said of the crop that was sown, an average of 55pc had emerged.

"The majority of the state could do with a decent splash of rain in order to get dry-sown crops out of the ground and progress emerged crops," he said.

"Farmers with crops that have not emerged by now may have taken a different strategy but the reality is that if growers have not sown already it is too late now."

While the overall outlook for WA's canola crop is varied, there is some heartening news from across the regions.

Mr Duff said growers on the south coast of WA were looking at having possibly their best season with most crops in extremely good shape.

Crops in the northern region are down on normal sowing levels while the Central and Great Southern regions are experiencing patchy conditions.

Mr Duff said WA's estimate for total sown hectares is expected to remain stable but the delayed start to the season will create some yield reductions.

"The number of hectares in total could now come back to less than 400,000 ha," he said.

WA's agronomic outlook was positive with Mr Duff saying there were no major issues apart from the lack of rain.

"The only reports we've had have been for the usual suspects such as RLEM, some sightings of Diamond Back Moth, aphids and slugs that need to be monitored and managed," he said.

"There's been some cabbage aphids in abundance on volunteer canola in the Cuballing area but not found in this season's canola crops as yet.

"The cooler temperatures and hopefully some good rainfall will keep their numbers suppressed."

The Growing Western Canola guide editor also offered growers some good advice on precautions that can be taken to help maximise crop returns.

"Growers should hold off on fertilizer applications until just before the next rainfall when yield potential can be better assessed," Mr Duff said.

"It is vital not to delay second applications until the stem elongation stage when yield potential is established.

"Growers should not allow canola to run out of available nitrogen."

On a national level, ABARE has flagged that canola production will remain relatively static, with just a 3pc downturn from the previous season.

With decreases due to the poor season forecast in NSW and WA; Victoria and SA are flying the flag.

ABARE predicts a big increase in canola production in Victoria of 21pc.

With conditions the way they are, this increase will need to be driven almost exclusively by a massive year from the high rainfall zone in the state's south-west, with other areas hoping to get average yields at best.

In South Australia, there is a 7pc increase in production flagged, with the key areas of the Eyre and Yorke Peninsulas both looking good.

Australian Oilseeds Federation (AOF) leader Rosemary Richards urged growers not to write off canola yet.

"It is a bit hardier than it is given credit for," Ms Richards said.

She acknowledged the dire need for rain in many areas, but said last year proved canola could endure a tough winter, providing there was a good spring.

"Last year there was a very late start, and there were some great yields in many areas."

The Growing Western Canola booklet is available in hard copy by contacting Oilseeds WA on 9475 0753.

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