Victorian winter crop summary
(updated February 2016)
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The northern Mallee, eastern North East Victoria and Gippsland cropping regions received summer rain in January and February that proved invaluable with dry spring conditions (Figure 1). All other areas started 2015 with minimal stored soil moisture. Rainfall for the 2015 growing season in the lowest 30% on record for most of the state (Figure 2).
Figure 1: 2015 Victorian rainfall deciles for the pre-season (January to March). Source: Bureau of Meteorology.
Figure 2: 2015 Victorian rainfall deciles for the growing season (April to October). 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.
It was another year where early maturing varieties outperformed later maturing varieties in most dryland areas. Crops sown into fallow or those that picked up some storm rainfall performed better.
Frost was not as widespread in 2015 as in 2014. However, a five day run of hot weather at the start of October combined with no soil moisture in many areas meant a reduced flowering period, flower loss, reduced grain fill and an early finish to the 2015 season. Maximum temperatures for the month of October were the highest on record for most of Victoria. Grain size of nearly all crop types was affected but barley in particular suffered with high screenings. Northern crops that were part-way through grain fill coped best with these high temperatures.
Crops with sufficient biomass were cut for hay in October in the Wimmera, Mallee and North Central, in some areas exceeding 50 per cent of the cropped area. Cutting crops for hay was at least as profitable, or more profitable, than taking crops to grain, with the added benefit of reducing the weed burden.
Dry conditions throughout the season resulted in low disease pressure across the state.
Late November rain fell too late for most crops except for some of the later maturing varieties in the North East, South West and Gippsland. It instead provided a delay to harvest 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.
Strong winds in November caused lodging in some of the heavier irrigated crops and damaged both canola windrows and canola to be direct harvested, particularly in the South West.
For the second year in a row much of the Mallee finished harvest before December with other regions finishing before Christmas, three to four weeks ahead of usual. Yields were average in the northern Mallee, eastern North East, parts of the South West and Gippsland. All other areas had lower than average yields. The southern Mallee and northern Wimmera yielded the poorest due to a combination of no stored moisture, late germination and a poor spring. The Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre modelled map (Figure 3) gives an indication of the spatial variability of yield across the state.
Figure 3: Predicted wheat yield for Victoria at 15th November 2015. Source: Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre.
Looking forward to 2015
Summer rain will mean summer weed control is important, helping to preserve soil moisture and save nutrients.
Sourcing quality seed for sowing will be the major challenge for growers for 2016. Smaller grain generally performs poorly with lower germination rates. Seed that was rain damaged at harvest will be more vulnerable to sprouting or other degradation during storage. Growers will need to conduct germination
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.
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 will be published on the NVT website in March 2016 in the format of relative frost values. Growers will be able to select a set of either wheat or barley, relative to their production region, to display graphically using an interactive tool.
This will enable 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 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 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 rating.
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.
Additional information on the National Variety Trials (NVT) is available from NVT Online at www.nvtonline.com.au.
The Winter Crop Summary can be downloaded to your computer or tablet at www.grdc.com.au/NVT-Victorian-Winter-Crop-Summary.
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 2015 were contracted to two Service Providers: Agrisearch Services Pty Ltd and South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI).
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 co-operation 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 the data from the NVT program.
The App is designed for tablets and computers (not phones) and is available online at www.nvtonline.com.au/apps/.
New Australian Field Crop Disease Guide app
The National Variety Trials has developed the Australian Field Crop Disease Guide App. This national App is based on, and intended to replace, the Victorian Crop Disease App. It allows users to select their state to access local varieties, ratings and descriptions.
The App is suitable for phones and is available online at www.nvtonline.com.au/apps/.
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 2016-17 are quoted from www.varietycentral.com.au and are quoted ex GST. Compliance with EPR systems is vital to assure the future of the Australian grains industry through the funding of new varieties and long-term productivity gains.