Hyper yielding cereals to take centre stage at Hagley

image of Nick Poole and Darcy Warren
Nick Poole (left) and Darcy Warren from FAR Australia at the GRDC Hyper Yielding Cereals Project field research site at Hagley in Tasmania. Photo: GRDC

Hagley in northern Tasmania will next month be the centre of attention for high yielding cereal crop enthusiasts from across the State and beyond.

A field research site dedicated to assisting Tasmanian grain growers in their quest to achieve higher yields of quality feed grains will be the location of a field day on November 15.

The field day will showcase the Grains Research and Development Corporation’s ‘Hyper Yielding Cereals Project’ and the project’s research site of some 1000 experimental plots.

Aimed at boosting Tasmania’s production of high quality feed grain cereals and thereby reducing its reliance on supplies from the mainland, the five-year project is now in its third year.

Involving collaboration with international, national and local expertise and breeders, the project is working to close the yield gap between actual and potential yields as well as using links with end users to promote the value of trading quality feed grains.

Despite a more suitable climate for grain production than the mainland and a much higher yield potential, the average yield of red grain feed wheat in Tasmania is still around five tonnes/hectare – considered to be well below the potential.

A GRDC investment, the Hyper Yielding Cereals Project is being led by FAR (Foundation for Arable Research) Australia in collaboration with Southern Farming Systems (SFS).

FAR Australia’s Managing Director Nick Poole says the project is working towards setting record yield targets as aspirational goals for growers of feed grains.

“The project has been set the challenge of increasing average Tasmanian red grain feed wheat yields from 4.4 tonnes/hectare to 7 t/ha by 2020, and delivering commercial wheat crops which yield up to14 t/ha by 2020,” Mr Poole says.

In the project’s first year in 2016 (an exceptional year in terms of growing season rainfall and conditions), the results exceeded the project’s yield targets; late April-sown wheat yielded more than 16t/ha in experimental plots, and barley sown at the same time yielded in excess of 10t/ha.

The soft finish and high rainfall experienced during 2016 was in stark contrast to 2017 when low rainfall, higher temperatures and late frosts affected the grain fill period at the research site.

Despite less favourable conditions, wheat yields peaked at 12.5 to 13 t/ha from both early and late April sown crops. Interestingly, barley yields were higher than 2016 and peaked at 11 to 11.5 t/ha, up 1 t/ha on the previous year.

Mr Poole says the contrast between the 2016 and 2017 seasons has been useful in determining which new cultivars and lines have potential across very different seasons.

“It has provided more opportunity to address which germplasm has the correct phenology (developmental ‘time clock’) for the early and more normal Anzac day sowing window,” he says.

“In 2016, high disease pressure, which was the result of much higher autumn temperatures and wetter spring conditions, reduced the yields of most wheat cultivars sown in early April relative to the more typical late April sown dates.

“In 2017, the advantages of early April sowing were observed in a wider range of wheat germplasm as later sowings were exposed to more heat stress during grain fill and early sowings suffered less disease pressure.”

Key findings from the research to date will be presented to growers, advisers and industry personnel attending the field day.

Keynote speaker on the day will be Dr Fran Lopez-Ruiz, who is the leader of the Crop Protection Group at the Centre for Crop and Disease Management (CCDM), a national research centre co-supported by Curtin University and the GRDC.

Dr Lopez-Ruiz will delve into why Tasmanian growers are on the frontline of fungicide resistance issues and what growers and advisers can do to manage the problem.

The field day will feature research trial demonstrations and a line-up of mainland and Tasmanian speakers who will discuss topics including cereal feed grain quality parameters for end-users (including aquaculture); on-farm experiences and results; the use of plant growth regulators; and the influence of soil fertility and position in the rotation for high yielding cereal crops.

Disease insights, the role of winter barley, and optimising agronomy for high yielding barley crops will be other topics on the agenda.

The field day will also feature panel discussions around the value proposition of new feed grain cultivars for plant breeders and their agents, as well as grains use in the Tasmanian dairy industry.

The field day on Badcock Lane, Hagley, will be from 10am to 4pm. Details are available via the GRDC website at https://bit.ly/2qcHU16.

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