NEW research into agronomy for safflower is expected to give growers in low and medium rainfall regions of Western Australia key information to consider including this crop in their rotation.
Trails are being conducted across the State to provide information on response to fertiliser, time of sowing and sowing depth of super high oleic safflower to growers.
Safflower is a thistle-like herbaceous annual from the sunflower family that is native to Asia, the Middle East and Africa, where it has been cultivated for its flowers. Today safflower is primarily grown for oil production as the seeds contain polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acid (oleic acid).
Super high oleic safflower had been developed in Australia by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and CSIRO to yield a minimum of 90 per cent of the stable and valuable oleic acid that can be used as food and for a range of industrial applications.
Crop Circle Consulting and Research director Grant Thompson said the Statewide project would compare time and depth of sowing along with responses to various rates of phosphate and nitrogen on selected soil types.
Mr Thompson said the crop could provide growers with a valuable break crop that can adapt to some of the challenging conditions present in WA.
"At $600 or more dollars a tonne, this crop could provide a real option on some hostile soils," Mr Thompson said.
"Saffl ower has proved to cope with semi-saline and sodic soils - it has a long taproot so it can access deep subsoil moisture and thrive in warmer conditions."
Trial plots are being planted and monitored in the Geraldton, Kwinana East and Esperance port zones in collaboration with York-based Synergy Lamond Research and Esperance-based South East Agronomy Research.
Sowing dates range from mid-April to June with seeds planted anywhere from two to 12 centimetres deep.
"In Mullewa we are growing it on some low lying semi-saline ground," Mr Thompson said.
"In some patches, this soil won't grow anything in dry years, so it will be fascinating to see how safflower goes."
The team of researchers will monitor the plants carefully, recording phonological stages, germination, flowering and seed set before recording biomass, yield and oil content across the treatments.
"We'll interpret all the data and provide graingrowers and agricultural advisers in the low to medium zones information on optimal sowing time, depth and nutritional requirements of the plant," Mr Thompson said.
The Safflower Agronomy and Extension project is a GRDC National Grower Network investment, with the generated data to be combined with existing time of sowing data to inform sowing time recommendations.
"We are hoping to give growers the confidence to try safflower and increase the area sown by 10pc over the next two growing seasons," Mr Thompson said.
"Investments such as these are working alongside growers to understand and develop best management practices for a relatively new crop in the region."
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