CANOLA seed shortages will see farmers in WA looking for other seeding alternatives this season.
Rain and hail during the 2017 harvest means seed breeders will be in short supply of most hybrid and genetically modified (GM) seeds.
But many breeders and industry people confirmed non-hybrid seed will still be available.
“Every brand this year has had trouble producing enough seed due to the storms in the eastern States last year,” said Pioneer Seeds’ WA Central Wheatbelt consultant Rob Bagley.
“Pioneer Seeds were knocked around a bit, but as I have been going around talking to agents and growers, everyone has lost an amount because most of the seed is grown in New South Wales and Victoria.”
Mr Bagley said that Pioneer Seeds ordered 30 per cent more canola seed than it needed and still didn’t get enough, which he found very disappointing for WA growers.
This year he has found himself selling farmers Hybrid Triazine Tolerant (TT) to replace Roundup Ready seed, although Hybrid TT supplies are also becoming short due to demands for canola.
“The biggest problem is where we produce the seed, with the storms going through that area in Victoria and NSW,” Mr Bagley said.
Other breeders, such as Nuseed Australia, are encouraging growers to act quickly to secure seed for this year as they experience unprecedented demand from distributors.
Nuseed Australia commercial manager Andrew Loorham said spring weather conditions affected Nuseed’s production of certified canola seed.
“As a result of these conditions and strong early season demands, all our hybrid canola seed stocks are currently sold out,” Mr Loorham said.
HE said Nuseed still had stocks of open-pollinated triazine tolerant canola and he encouraged growers to act quickly and lock down their seed supplies for this season.
Seednet WA sales manager David Clegg said Seednet was just as frustrated as growers with the lack of success in supplying seed this year.
Mr Clegg said canola seed production was predominantly in the Eastern States due to good climates and expertise in producing hybrid seeds.
“Obviously the demand for hybrid seed is increasing and we need to see what can be done to meet the increasing demands,” he said.
“The shortage is purely because of the cold weather that affected the cross pollination of the male and female parent plants.”
Australian Oilseeds Federation executive director Nick Goddard said there would be less GM and hybrid canola planted this year.
“There were some issues across a number of seed producers, so the industry didn’t produce enough seed as they might have wanted, which has affected not only GM but also other hybrids,” Mr Goddard said.
He said from their perspective the shortage would not reduce the amount of canola planted, with other varieties available.
But farmers who replace their rotation with other varieties may not receive the weed control benefits they are looking for when they choose to grow canola.
“It’s grown in high rainfall areas where the risk is lower, obviously producing seeds is an expensive exercise so they don’t want to do it where they risk losing that production,” Mr Goodard said.
He said the bottom line was that there would be sufficient seed around so what they lose in one area they could pick up in another.
Businesses supplying growers are disappointed they haven’t received what they have ordered for growers and are becoming the bearers of bad news.
Elders Farmways Cunderdin store manager Graham Cooper said the issue was related to the bulk up of seeds.
“I have been told two things – some production crops were damaged and the higher demand for seed means they haven’t been able to supply the tonnages ordered,” Mr Cooper said.
The issue is ongoing, according to Mr Cooper, who said three out of the past five years have seen a cutback on seed supplied in WA.
“I think the production companies really need to look at how they spread their risk of production and what information they are using to decide how much to bulk up,” he said.
Elders Farmways is short on some varieties.
43Y23 canola is a key variety in the area and it looks like Elders Farmways will receive 56pc of its order.
Mr Cooper said growers would have to switch to other varieties, if there were any available.
“I believe most GM lines have either sold out or are in short supply,’’ he said.
“Farmers may need to switch to triazine resistant or normal varieties such as Bonito or Stingray.”
The rotational benefits of GM canola is attractive for most farmers as a weed control tool.
Mr Cooper said not having access to the seed caused a lot of problems for growers as they wouldn’t be able to fill their planned rotation and couldn’t continue their usual weed control with other varieties, as they would with GM varieties.
Wongan Hills Landmark agronomist Wyatt Verhoogt said agents were still trying to plan out this season, but that last year a lot of growers tried to source TT canola as a replacement or planted other grains.
“People may have to result to lupins or more pasture paddocks, although a lot of guys around here rely on canola and shortages such as this have pretty big implications on the whole system,” he said.
Mr Verhoogt said farmers used canola for weed control in particular and break crops were one of the only options for weeds.
Some growers will be lucky this season if they only plan to seed small programs of canola.
Cunderdin grower Ash Teakle said he was lucky to get his full allocation of the Hyola 404 variety, although he has ordered a new variety of DG408 and is uncertain if he will get the seed.
“Last year we only received 40pc of our Hyola 404 and thankfully Landmark was able to get hold of some IH51 canola so we had a 110 hectare paddock with the first 70ha as IH51 and the rest of 404, it’s no big drama but more of an inconvenience,” Mr Teakle said.
Weed control is a primary focus for many farmers when they grow Roundup Ready canola and not having that option in their rotation can increase their chemical input costs.
Mr Teakle said they grow GM for weed control, putting a few paddocks in each year, saying he would try and get a substitute variety so he still had a Roundup Ready option.
“To be honest with you I haven’t thought of what we would do if we don’t get it,’’ he said
“Hopefully the guys that have it as a majority of their program don’t miss out.”
People in the industry are calling out for seed breeders to assess the risks and look for other alternatives.