RECENT trial results have shown planting a long season, slow maturity wheat in the northern agricultural region could be done, if there was early rain before the traditional break.
The 2021 trial, which was an InterGrain project but independently managed by Crop Circle Consulting, compared various long-season wheat varieties over two sites - Tenindewa and Yuna - which were sown on April 15 and 21 respectively.
It was initiated off the back of ex-Tropical Cyclone Seroja last year, which provided the opportunity to investigate what performance could be achieved and how profitable it could be to sow longer-season wheat varieties much earlier than the normal wheat planting window in the north.
It featured big demonstration sites with plots 36 metres long and replicated twice.
Crop Circle Consulting agronomist Grant Thompson said planting early didn't suit shorter-season varieties, which were more common in the north, because they would potentially run up too quickly.
"If it came in warm, or if there was a good start and a good middle, they would have a quick end and be flowering and setting grain in late June or July which is way too early and susceptible to frost," Mr Thompson said.
"Instead, you need something with longer maturity that is a bit more stable in order to be able to plant that early when there was summer rain or fallow that stored moisture and not have it race ahead too quickly.
"There are opportunities there to go planting wheat, especially those with a long coleoptile, deeper into that moisture to get it up early and try to capitalise on that big yield potential."
Overall, the Tenindewa site achieved higher yields with InterGrain's own Valiant CL Plus and Australian Grain Technologies' (AGT) Cutlass taking out the top spots with 5.14 tonnes per hectare and 5.26t/ha respectively.
The trial also collected data on protein, screenings, hectolitre weight and grade.
With that taken into consideration and using prices from January 7, growers would have made $1978/ha from Valiant and $1851/ha from Cutlass.
At Yuna, InterGrain's Rockstar yielded the highest at 4.26t/ha, while Valiant yielded 3.85t/ha.
However Valiant was still worth the most at $1258/ha, due its high protein at 10.2 and a grade of APW1, compared to ASW1 for all other varieties in the trial.
InterGrain wheat breeder Dan Mullan said at both locations Valiant was the standout performer which was their motivation for the trial.
"It's hard to get longer spring types to hold back with their maturity and their flowering especially in the north where there are longer days and hotter weather," Dr Mullan said.
"However, Valiant did hold itself back and give itself time to develop that additional yield potential with high protein, which translates to better gross margins for growers by capitalising on those early rainfall events early on."
The other variety that performed well, especially at Tenindewa, was Cutlass which was known to be a line that tends to do better and hold back a little more in the north.
AGT wheat breeder Dion Bennett said last year they also conducted a sowing trial at Yuna, which was also after the cyclone.
"In that Cutlass also did really strongly and was the highest yielding, slow maturity variety," Dr Bennett said.
"Furthermore if you look at the National Variety Trial (NVT) results, it does do that in the early-sown series in that region too.
"When the conditions are right and you can get it in early, we're seeing trial results that consistently show you can get good results and high yields out of it."
Overall, both breeding companies had a couple of really good selections in their suite which is the beauty of competition - they all had a couple of winners for different scenarios.
"What it showed was that if growers are prepared to have a silo of an extra-long maturity variety, then they can capture stored summer rain, cyclonic rain or thunderstorm rain that is out of the typical break of the season," Mr Thompson said.
"They don't have to sit around and kill weeds for a month, instead they can go in and plant a crop early to get it established and grow a potentially very high yielding, competitive crop."
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