Growers have used stored hybrid canola seed to make up the shortfall in orders, whether as a standalone crop or by “shandying” the stored seed with the limited amount of new certified seed they could get their hands on.
Mark Modra, Eyre Peninsula, South Australia, said sowing stored hybrid seed was the only option for certain paddocks this year.
“I had difficulty getting hybrid seed, which has happened at least three times in spite of early orders being placed and due to my rotation the only way around it was to plant stored hybrid seed,” Mr Modra said.
“It is not an ideal situation and I’m not sure how it will go, but that is the decision I had to make.”
Results conducted by Birchip Cropping Group in 2013 found that using F2 (second generation) hybrid canola seed could work, although the seed did not behave predictably in terms of germination and how plants grew.
There were also concerns about how the crop would stand up to the fungal disease blackleg if there was significant disease pressure.
Mr Modra said hybrid see availability issues, caused by the failure of seed crops due to climatic factors, reflected an industry failure.
“It has happened three times in the past five years, so there is less than a 50 per cent success rate, which I think represents a failure that needs to be addressed,” he said.
Earlier in the year Nuseed said its hybrid seed production had fallen short of demand in spite of having the climactic risk spread by having seed producing sites in three different zones in Australia and others in North and South America.
Grain Producers Australia chairman Andrew Weidemann agreed there had been issues with a shortage of canola seed but said conditions meant the problem had largely been resolved.
“People have been dropping canola from their rotations due to the dry so that has meant a little more seed has become available which has helped those scrambling around for seed,” he said.
WA Grains Group member Ray Marshall, Pingelly, said in WA’s central south, farmers were also dropping canola in favour of other, lower-risk options.
Mr Modra said upfront payments for seed should change.
“Perhaps we could see some changes in the canola seed industry where all varieties are moved to an end point royalty system, which I think would be fairer,’’ he said.
“I’m not sure if it will be the answer to these seed shortages we are having but at least it would mean those breeding the varieties that are performing the best are rewarded.”
Hybrid canola seed is worth about $25 a kilogram, with most growers sowing 2-3kg a hectare.