Victorian winter crop summary
(updated March 2017)
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Much of the state received average to above average rainfall in January, which, although welcome, had little impact on stored soil moisture following the prolonged dry conditions throughout 2015. Average to drier conditions continued (Figure 1) until the May break delivered the best start to the cropping season that had been seen in a number of years, except for part of the West Wimmera which saw average May rainfall.
Figure 1: 2016 Victorian rainfall deciles for the pre-season (January to March). Source: Bureau of Meteorology
Figure 2: 2016 Victorian rainfall deciles for the growing season (April to November). Source: Bureau of Meteorology
The season began in April in the northern Mallee and North East Victoria, but most other areas started in mid to late May. May rainfall assisted germination, but had limited impact on stored moisture in the Wimmera, Mallee and North Central with the majority of moisture being absorbed in the top horizon.
The initial discovery of the exotic pest Russian wheat aphid (RWA), Diuraphis noxia, in South Australia in May, and its subsequent detection in Victoria, was of major concern to growers in 2016. However, most affected cereal crops were able to recover from early seedling damage caused by this new aphid species. The pest appeared to be controlled with relative ease using either chlorpyrifos or pirimicarb (APVMA PER82792) and an economic threshold approach which in many cases saw predation by natural enemies. The cool and especially wet conditions throughout winter and spring together with the development of entomopathogenic fungi appeared to halt significant population build-up. Despite few reported cases of yield loss in 2016, the full impact of this new pest is yet to be determined under normal spring conditions.
Above average rainfall continued after the May break with decile 8-10 rainfall across Victoria (Figure 2). The exception was Gippsland which received average growing season rainfall, and areas in the northern Mallee were still looking for further rainfall up until August to support crop growth. Until then very little moisture had penetrated past 40 centimetres.
Warm temperatures throughout winter led to limited frosts and above average winter growth. However, some low lying areas of the Wimmera were still impacted by frost in spring.
Rainfall across the state in September reversed the trend with waterlogging in areas which received over 100 millimetres in one week. Flooding impacted the Loddon, Avoca, Wimmera and South West catchments. These ideal conditions also led to high disease pressure across the state. Wet conditions also resulted in relatively low numbers of aphids and therefore a low incidence of viruses in all crops.
Above average spring rainfall delayed growers hay programs, with many starting programs later than usual. Hay required longer time on the ground to cure, resulting in issues with quality. High biomass crops led to high hay yields, albeit with low energy and protein. Continued rainfall also resulted in a large amount of volunteer and weed growth in those paddocks cut for hay.
Harvest was delayed three weeks to a month across the state due to September flooding and above average October rainfall. Harvest got underway in the northern Mallee in the last week of October and continued through into January, 2017. Crops yielded well across the state except for some in the far North West, which were heavily impacted by an extreme, early November storm.
November and late December rain and scattered storms only frustrated growers who were trying to get high yielding crops off. It instead caused harvest delays and an unfortunate boost to summer weeds. Some seed quality may also have been affected, with the possibility of sprouting where rainfall totals were high. Due to the record volume of grain produced in 2016, growers experienced issues with storing and moving grain throughout harvest. Many growers used temporary silo bags to store cereal grain due to low prices.
Looking forward to 2017
Unused soil moisture in many parts of the state and summer rain will mean summer volunteer and weed control is important. This will help to preserve soil moisture reserves, save nutrients and minimise the green bridge for pests and diseases, including Russian wheat aphid.
Sourcing clean seed for sowing will be important in 2017. Seed that was rain damaged at harvest may experience germination or vigour problems at sowing. Growers will need to conduct germination and vigour tests to identify the best seed to use. Careful attention will need to be paid to pre-emergent herbicides, seed dressings, coleoptile length, vigour and sowing depth, to prevent poor establishment. Testing for seed borne diseases will also be important in pulses after high disease pressure in 2016.
Growers should remember while there is a natural desire to get everything in the ground while the weather is warm and the soil moist, spreading sowing time is a useful technique to minimise risk. Likewise, growers are encouraged to use varieties with a range of maturities and frost sensitivities to minimise damage.
Frost susceptibility rankings
Frost susceptibility rankings for wheat and barley varieties are available on the NVT website in the format of relative frost values. Growers can use the interactive tool to select a set of either wheat or barley varieties, adapted relative to their production region, to display graphically using an interactive tool. This enables growers to manage the frost risk of new varieties based on how known varieties of similar ranking are currently managed.
The rankings are not due to difference in phenology/flowering time, and refer to the relative susceptibility of varieties flowering at the same time during a frost event. They do not take into account the frost risk associated with a particular variety flowering on a certain sowing date. Selecting an appropriate maturity for a particular sowing time is still the best option in limiting damage resulting from frost. Hence the reproductive frost ranking needs to be considered in relation to the relative time of sowing and flowering time prediction.
No current wheat or barley varieties are frost tolerant. Under severe frost (for example -8°C) or multiple minor frosts (several nights of -2° to -4°C) all varieties tested to date are equally susceptible, resulting in up to 100 per cent sterility in flowering heads.
Growers should continue to select varieties based on the best yield, maturity, agronomic and disease performance information from various sources such as regional agronomy trials and NVT. Once a variety has been adopted, use the preliminary reproductive frost susceptibility rankings to fine tune frost risk management, based on how known varieties are currently managed with a similar ranking.
For example, Wyalkatchem, which is more susceptible to frost than Yitpi, is managed differently in terms of sowing date, position in landscape and the associated frost risk; thereby trying to maximise production while also minimising frost risk. Ensuring that flowering occurs within the optimum flowering window to minimise frost, heat and terminal drought continues to be critical, and the reproductive frost rankings need to be used within this context.
This research has been funded as part of the GRDC's multidisciplinary National Frost Initiative.
The Winter Crop Summary
This publication summarises information on current varieties of the major winter crops grown in Victoria. Sources of additional information are listed in each chapter. Local advisers are also a key resource for information relevant to individual localities.
This publication aims to prompt growers to ask themselves, 'Am I growing the best variety for my situation?' Use it as a guide for discussion with consultants, advisers and marketing agents.
Thank you to the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) for its support in making this guide available to Victoria.
National Variety Trials (NVT)
The majority of variety trials presented in this book are sourced from the NVT program. NVT also provide data from some breeding trials to add to the information available. In Victoria, NVTs are fully funded by the GRDC and in 2016 were contracted to three Service Providers: Agrisearch Services Pty Ltd, Birchip Cropping Group and Southern Farming Systems.
NVTs provide independent information on varieties for growers. The aim of each NVT is to document a ranking of new and widely adopted varieties in terms of grain yield and to provide grain quality information relevant to delivery standards. NVTs are also used by pathologists to determine disease resistance ratings used in the Winter Crop Summary.
Conducted to a set of predetermined protocols, NVTs are sown and managed as close as possible to local best practice such as sowing time, fertiliser application, weed management and pest and disease control, including fungicide application. NVTs are not designed to grow varieties to their maximum yield potential.
It is acknowledged that an ongoing project of this type would not be possible without the cooperation of farmers prepared to contribute sites, and who often assist with the management of trials on their property.
New NVT Long Term Yield Reports App
The National Variety Trials has launched the NVT Long Term Yield Reports App to provide growers and advisors with an easy-to-use means of accessing and interpreting Long Term MET (Multi Environment Trial) results from the NVT program. These Long Term MET results are presented in this publication.
The NVT Long Term Yield Reports App gives users the ability to view data in yield based groupings and/or seasonal outcome across states, regions or selected trials right down to a single site level. Information is most accurate and reliable when viewed at a single site level, but the option is provided to use regional or multi-site selections for improved usability and relevance to growers. Data can be viewed in table format, or on a chart where specific variety comparisons can be made.
The app is designed for tablets and computers (not phones) and is available download online.
Australian Field Crop Disease Guide App
The National Variety Trials has developed the Australian Field Crop Disease Guide App. This national app allows users to select their state to access local varieties, ratings and descriptions. The app is suitable for phones and is available to download online.
Plant Breeding Rights (PBR)
Varieties subject to Plant Breeding Rights at the time of printing are annotated with the symbol. It should be noted that 'Unauthorised commercial propagation or any sale, conditioning, export, import or stocking of propagation material of these varieties is an infringement under the Plant Breeders Rights Act 1994 and that any breaching of PBR law is punishable by a maximum $50,000 fine for each offence'.
End Point Royalties (EPR's)
EPR's payable for 2017-18 are quoted from the Variety Central website and are quoted ex‑GST. Compliance with EPR systems is vital to ensure the future of the Australian grains industry through the funding of new varieties and long term productivity gains.