PLANTINGS of genetically modified (GM) canola in Australia have made a modest 2.5 per cent year on year rise according to Monsanto, the company that owns the Roundup Ready (RR) trait used in Australia’s GM canola.
Monsanto Australia managing director Tony May said there would be 447,000 hectares of RR canola planted across the nation this year, up from 436,000ha last year.
Western Australia continues to be the dominant market for RR canola, with 77pc of total national plantings in the west.
Based on figures from the Australian Oilseeds Federation (AOF) June crop estimate of a national plant of 2.163 million hectares, GM plantings will make up around 20.6pc of the total crop.
Mr May said over 1000 farmers will plant GM varieties around Australia this season, including more than 180 growers planting RR canola for the first time.
He said he was pleased with the figures, given canola prices were low in the front half of this year when croppers were making decisions about their rotation for the season.
“Even with a price differential and slowdown in the global canola price, local growers continue to choose Roundup Ready hybrid varieties to play an important part in their cropping mix,” Mr May said.
Western Australian growers have planted around 346,000ha of RR canola, there are 55,000ha sown in Victoria while NSW farmers have put in 47,000ha according to the Monsanto estimates.
Mr May said farmer feedback was that RR was useful in the context of an entire crop rotation.
“Better weed control means cleaner paddocks. A cleaner paddock boosts the productivity of subsequent crops,” he said.
WAFarmers grains section president Duncan Young backed up Mr May’s comments.
“It sounds slightly counter intuitive when talking about a system that uses our most widely used herbicide, glyphosate, but WA farmers have found RR canola really good in terms of managing herbicide resistance in weed species,” he said.
He said it had proved a valuable tool for growers in areas too dry to safely grow Clearfield canola due to concerns regarding the residual component of the herbicide used in that system not breaking down or where there were issues with atrazine and simazine, the herbicides used in triazine tolerant (TT) canola systems.
“We’ve got many growers who have done TT to death and we’ve found RR is a useful part of our overall integrated weed management program.”
However, Bob Phelps, director of GeneEthics said GM canola had been a flop in Australia.
“The European Union buys the vast majority of Australian canola and they have been prepared to pay a premium of up to $70/t for non-GM canola.”
Mr May disagreed with Mr Phelps’ assessment, saying yield improvements from new RR varieties were increasing grower uptake.
“Since 2008, the average yield gain from GM canola technology has been 11 per cent. This has resulted in an extra 226,000 tonnes of canola.”
In terms of market share, RR lines account for 11pc of plantings in NSW, 16pc in Victoria and 30pc in Western Australia according to Monsanto.