VALUE IN VARIETY

04 FEBRUARY 2014, SWAN HILL, VICTORIA
Summary
Grain variety data provides encouragement for Mallee farmers as yields improve year on year with new technology and advances in plant genetics set to play a starring role.

National Variety Trial (NVT) results released recently progressively show a step towards genetic traits better suited to drought tolerance and the ability to withstand the rising temperatures of our climate.

“Variety trials are incredibly beneficial in improving production,” said Matt Witney, Agricultural Management Specialist with Dodgshun Medlin. “We’re seeing an average of 1% yield increase per year though conventional breeding, and with DNA screening technology and the possibility of Genetic Modification these increases may rise to 2% and 3% per year. This is a huge advantage for growers.”

While it could be some time before Genetic Modification is used in cereal production, new technology in the form a robotic chipping machine is now being used. One of two machines in the world, owned by Monsanto, is based in Horsham and used by InterGrain for screening wheat varieties. This machine selects for desired traits by taking a small chip out of seeds for genotyping. The seeds are then planted out to assess yield.

“While conventional breeding is continually improving varieties, genetic technology is leaping ahead. We can be more selective about what we want from our varieties and identify these desirable traits much faster,” said Mr Witney.

“As a majority of these genetics are now mapped, we can look more closely at leaf disease, root disease, sprouting and many other traits that can be selected to target better yields and profitability on-farm,” said Mr Witney.

Dodgshun Medlin Variety Specialist Neil “Soapy” Vallance urges all growers to think ahead when planning for the season and consider NVT data - not only for one year, but multiple years, if possible, to see how consistently a variety performs.

“The challenges and complexities facing Mallee farmers are certainly not waning. Fortunately, we are now exposed to an array of crop types, herbicide tolerances and varieties.

“Having a number of varieties to select from does make choosing more difficult, but it also gives us tools to tackle risk, weed, disease and quality parameters better than ever,” said Mr Vallance.

National Variety Trials display top variety lines from various breeding companies that are released or potentially set for release.Whilst they are a good indicator of which varieties are likely to suit a particular cropping region or area, ‘local adaptability’ also plays a large role. This involves farms growing a promising variety to see which perform best in their farming system.

If a farm can extract an extra 5% yield out of an improved variety for no extra cost, it can mean $40,000 extra income over 2000ha.

“It often takes three years over a range of seasons to see if a variety has any potential pitfalls - so having an open mind and remaining flexible is the key,” said Mr Vallance.

NVT data is publicly available for all growers with a number of seeding varieties trialled this year on the table now.

Variety research is crucial to increasing production and growers should expect to see a continual release of new varieties with improved characteristics, yield and quality traits.

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Dodgshun Medlin’s research and development specialists have conducted a number of Victorian and South Australian Mallee NVT trials as part of GRDC’s Australian Crop Accreditation System. The national testing program provides independent results to assist growers in making informed variety decisions for their location.

Interviews available with Matt Witney and Neil Vallance, Dodgshun Medlin Agricultural Management.

About Dodgshun Medlin

Dodgshun Medlin is a generations-deep provider of holistic business management, wealth creation, agronomy services and accountancy guidance to the Victorian & South Australian Mallee & Wimmera Regions.