Hybrid canola put under research spotlight

29 Jul, 2010 12:00 PM
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DAFWA senior research officer Mark Seymour inspects hybrid canola seeded in a phenology trial at Gibson.
DAFWA senior research officer Mark Seymour inspects hybrid canola seeded in a phenology trial at Gibson.

With increased interest in hybrid canola in Western Australia, new research aims to develop guidelines for growers on production issues including nitrogen and seeding rates.

The Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) is comparing hybrid and open pollinated (OP) canola varieties in trials in WA’s medium to high rainfall areas, with support from the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).

DAFWA senior research officer Mark Seymour said overseas research shows hybrid canola – a first cross produced from two parents – offers increased early vigour, weed competition, nitrogen efficiency and yields.

“But local research is needed to develop guidelines to optimise profitability from hybrid canola varieties grown in WA,” he said.

Mr Seymour said interest in hybrid canola has increased since triazine tolerant (TT) and Roundup Ready (RR) hybrid varieties became available in WA.

“With the availability of hybrid technology comes questions including whether inputs are the same as for OP canola; whether yields will cover higher up-front costs; and if there are any system benefits,” he said.

Mr Seymour said one aspect of the research will investigate optimum seeding rates for hybrid canola to see if farmers can cut seeding rates without a yield penalty.

“In WA, farmers have traditionally retained open pollinated canola seed from year to year, resulting in relatively low cost seed at about $2 per kilogram,” he said.

“However, hybrid canola seed is more expensive than OP canola seed.

“This is due to higher seed production costs and because hybrid seed is usually bigger than OP seed – 6mg compared with 3.5mg – so it is more expensive to achieve the same plant density.

“Also, farmers are discouraged from retaining hybrid canola seed due to genetic variation in subsequent generations and retaining seed is not permitted by seed companies for RR varieties.”

DAFWA has established trials at Gibson, Katanning, Eradu, Mingenew, Cunderdin and Darkan testing seeding density rates for OP and hybrid canola varieties.

“We expect these trials will result in economic guidelines on seeding densities for hybrid and new OP canola varieties in WA,” Mr Seymour said.

Trials are also being conducted at Eradu, Cunderdin and Gibson, and possibly more sites next year, to help update recommendations on nitrogen rates for hybrid and OP canola.

“Canadian trials have shown hybrid canola to be more nitrogen efficient than OP canola, and more responsive to higher rates of nitrogen,” Mr Seymour said.

“Overseas trials found hybrid canola, unlike OP canola, continues to respond to higher rates of nitrogen and we need to find out if this is also the case in WA’s drier environment.”

Mr Seymour said the GRDC, CSIRO and DAFWA are also supporting WA trials investigating the suitability of hybrid canola for grazing.

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