EARLY sown wheat trials at Cunderdin are featuring a pre-release Mace-related variety that could be a game changer.
The CSIRO-run trial is testing the Australian Grain Technologies' (AGT) RAC2341 variety in an early sowing date for the first time this year, with positive results so far.
Growers from across the State were last week shown the trial at the WA No-Tillage Farmers Association (WANTFA) Spring Field Day at Cunderdin.
CSIRO farming systems scientist James Hunt said the fast maturing winter wheat RAC2341 was a bit behind, but AGT's yield data showed promise.
"In WA the time at which wheat flowers is very important in determining yield," he said.
"With farm sizes increasing and sowing opportunities decreasing, getting wheat crops established so that they flower during the optimal period for yield is difficult.
"Whilst no-till and dry sowing have been used successfully in WA to get more area of crop flowering on time, an opportunity exists to take advantage of rainfall events in March and April to start sowing crops earlier than currently practiced."
The variety, developed at Roseworthy, South Australia, is about 70 per cent Mace and was found when looking for summer wheats.
It has the same phenology as Whistler wheat, which is an old variety that can perform well in WA but often suffers from poor grain quality and is susceptible to stripe rust.
Mr Hunt said the squeeze to get the timing right and get yield was critical.
He said the development of varieties which could be sown before March and April rains and seemed reliable, but wouldn't develop without winter conditions, was a focus at Cunderdin, Doodlakine, Brookton and Kojonup.
There are 10 wheat lines being used in the Grains Development and Research Corporation (GRDC) trial, including six commercial and four near-isogenic lines with a Sunstate variety background being tested on three sowing times of mid-April, late-April and mid-May.
Mr Hunt said recent wheat breeding focused on mid to fast maturing varieties suited to sowing in May and June, such as the WA favourite Mace.
"Sowing earlier than is currently practiced requires cultivars which are not widely grown in WA, and which are much slower to mature, either through having a strong vernalisation/cold requirement or strong photoperiod/day length requirement as in slow maturing spring wheats," he said.
"GRDC-funded research in south eastern Australia has demonstrated that slow maturing varieties sown early yield more than mid to fast varieties sown later when they flower at the same time."
Whistler, EGA-Eaglehawk, Lancer, Magenta and Mace are also being trialled.
"We need the varieties to make early sowing happen," Mr Hunt said.
"We demonstrated last year that Whistler really worked and it had the development pattern for WA, but it's not well adapted, it doesn't yield well and it's old.
"But a new variety like this related to Mace could be the key and help early sowing take off."
Mr Hunt said modelling showed adoption of slow maturing varieties to allow early sowing has the potential to increase yield across an entire farm, particularly in zones experiencing mid to high rainfall.