Dr Therese McBeath1, Dr Elizabeth Meier2, Mr Andrew Ware3, Dr John Kirkegaard4, Mr Michael Moodie5, Mr Bill Davoren1, Mr Ed Hunt6
1CSIRO, SA, Australia
2CSIRO, QLD, Australia
3EPAg Research, SA, Australia
4CSIRO Agriculture and Food, ACT, Australia
5Frontier Farming Systems
6Ed Hunt Ag Consutancy, Wharminda, SA, Australia
The successful inclusion of break crops such as canola remains a challenge for farming systems in low-rainfall cropping environments. There have been significant gains in canola productivity through early sowing, understanding of critical stress periods, hybrid cultivars and improved nitrogen (N) fertilisation in many canola producing regions but require careful adaptation for risky low-rainfall environments. A series of experiments were implemented over 4 growing seasons in the low-rainfall environments of southern Australia to tested combinations of sowing date, cultivar selection and N management strategies. This was combined with simple whole-farm profit-risk analysis to identify combinations of practices where the potential production and risk were understood. Earlier sowing (April) was only beneficial where seasonal conditions allowed good crop establishment. Analysis of hybrid cultivars revealed a yield advantage of >20 % over open-pollinated (OP) cultivars needed be sustained across the full range of season deciles to be profitable. There was relative insensitivity to the timing of N application, but an adequate dose of N was critical to improve canola productivity. Our combined analysis showed there are opportunities to make significant gains in the yield (up to 110% compared with current standard practice) and profit-risk outcomes (in the order of 30% increased gross margins across all season types) for canola in low-rainfall environments.
Therese is a Research Team Leader in the Systems Program of CSIRO Agriculture and Food. She works across a range of systems and soils project to solve production and profit issues for Southern cropping and mixed cropping-livestock farms.