FAR Australia - Tasmanian HYC
HIGH YIELD: A recent wheat trial is showing encouraging results at the Tasmanian Hyper Yielding Crops (HYC) site at Hagley. IMAGE: Supplied
WITH food producers looking to double their harvests by 2050, it is more important than ever to invest in crop research and development. A recent wheat trial, led by Field Applied Research (FAR) Australia is showing encouraging results at the Tasmanian Hyper Yielding Crops (HYC) site at Hagley.
FAR's Tasmanian Crop Technology Centre is home to one of Grains Research and Development Corporation's (GRDC) HYC sites, with FAR research manager Darcy Warren leading the team on the ground. The Tasmanian site has up to 1,200 research plots of both autumn sown wheat and spring sown barley and contains several different trials, acting as a pipeline for identifying new germplasm and how to best manage them.
Working closely with collaborating partner Southern Farming Systems (SFS) through Brett Davey on the research site and Naomi Hender with the HYC awards and innovative grower network, Darcy said the trial is part of a larger, four-year investment by the GRDC in the high rainfall zones of five states.
"In Tasmania, we've set out to build on the success of GRDC's earlier project 'Hyper Yielding Cereals', which ran field trials exclusively in Tasmania between 2016 and 2019," Darcy said. "We're aiming to demonstrate that increases in productivity could be achieved through sowing the right cultivars, at the right time and with effective implementation of appropriately tailored management strategies. By doing this, I believe that growing high yields doesn't require excessive inputs."
Darcy said the results from this year have "exceeded expectations" with wheat yields reaching 15t/ha - the highest they've been since 2016 - and Barley yields of more than 10t/ha. Excellent growing conditions across 2021 saw many of the wheat and barley varieties on site yielding well.
"The standout wheat varieties in Tasmania this year were RGT Cesario (tested as SFR 86-090) and Big Red (tested as AGFWH004718) with both varieties yielding over 15t/ha."
Darcy said, while these yields were impressive it was the disease resistance in both varieties displayed which he found most exciting. "Throughout the season, Septoria tritici blotch and rust infections were minimal in these cultivars.
"They also showed well-suited phenology, or development speed, for our April sowing window and relatively good straw strength to avoid lodging, especially in RGT Cesario."
Spring sown barley trials of the RGT Planet variety are also still yielding consistently well each season at more than 10t/ha.
"A great result for a crop that has a short growing season, September to February, a system that is a great fit for Tasmanian growers," Darcy said.
The April 2022 sowing window is now open and, with two more years of research trials remaining at the Hagley site, Darcy and his team are set to continue screening varieties to identify which best suit Tasmanian conditions.
"[We will] keep looking at the most efficient management strategies to achieve even higher yields." Achieving these consistent, high yields is something Darcy said truly demonstrates the potential for Tasmanian growers.
"I believe it will be particularly beneficial to those who attended our field day in November 2021 who saw for themselves the work we were doing and how the varieties and managements we had on show can translate into high yields," he said.
"I really hope the results continue to drive the 'whole community of interest' concept we've been building with our HYC awards program and growers have been spurred on by the results at the research centre to further increase productivity."
In terms of crop management, Darcy said the recent results have shown promise, not only in yield but also resilience.
"Our disease management trials showed many of the currently grown, or older varieties, are significantly responding to higher fungicide use. So treatments where we'd applied four fungicide units greatly out-yielded those with less or no fungicides.
"However, looking at the newer germplasm coming through the system, the difference between our untreated and high fungicide treatments was much less significant. This gives us much more flexibility in deciding the number of, and timings of, fungicide sprays we need to apply during the season," he said.
"Our disease management in the spring sown barley has shown that, compared to an autumn sown barley crop, disease pressure is much lower.
"In our disease trial looking at rates and timings of different fungicides RGT Planet, which is rated SVS to both net form of net blotch and spot form of net blotch, showed little to no yield response to fungicide. Again, this is really encouraging for the protection of chemistry we have available to us."
Darcy said the group's work on nitrogen management, both in Tasmania and on the mainland, has shown higher yields are not determined by simply adding more urea.
"In last year's trial, we didn't see a response to applied nitrogen over 194kg N/ha in wheat, or 80kg N/ha in spring sown barley," he said.
"Some of the work conducted on the mainland in our canola trials showed, where responses to higher rates of urea had plateaued, the addition of manure as a source of nutrients, which was used to simulate a fertile soil, was able to give us another jump in yield."
For growers, Darcy hopes the recent results will be an important source of information on what varieties are best suited to the Tasmanian conditions and the strategies needed for the best economic outcomes.
"By choosing a well-suited variety with the correct management, growers can push yield boundaries while also improving profitability and sustainability." FAR Australia will host the Hyper Yielding Crops: TAS Harvest Results and Awards on July 26 with the annual HYC Field Day set for November 24 at Hagley.
*First published March 2022 for Tasmanian Farmer Newspaper - owned by Australian Community Media.