GM may prove a trump card

Haidee VandenbergheCountryman

For Kevin Fox-Slater it’s all about timing and weed control and for the second time GM canola will play a big part in that.

Much like last May, the Munglinup farmer received a deluge of rain — close to 100mm — putting a dampener on crop germination.

But Kevin said having GM varieties allowed him to seed much earlier, meaning the canola was already up and growing by the time the rain hit.

“We seeded it on April 15 at 2.76kg/ha and got it to germinate,” he said.

Get in front of tomorrow's news for FREE

Journalism for the curious Australian across politics, business, culture and opinion.


“We had the moisture and GM gives you the opportunity to plant a crop and you know you can come back and control the weeds.

“That’s why we probably grew a bigger area of GM canola this year than we might have otherwise done.

“We’re zero-tillage and we have full stubble retention; underneath that cover the moisture was only down 1cm.

“We pushed the canola into it and up it came.”

This year Kevin, who farms with his brother Sean, is growing two varieties of GM canola — 46Y20 and Hyola 502.

And although the duo has more GM canola than usual — 450ha compared to 300ha — Kevin said they’re not concerned about the substantial price discounts for GM.

“Nothing else does the job that roundup ready canola does and if you pay a penalty, well that’s what you’ve got to do because there is no real alternative,” he said.

“We realise we’ve got to grow a break crop and at the end of the day, the more profitable your break crop is the better.

“The most profitable break crop for us is the one that has the best weed control.”

In the first half of last year’s growing season Munglinup paddocks turned into quagmires after near-record May rains as well as strong falls in June and July.

For that reason, Kevin and Sean were keen to expand their GM canola program to keep on top of ryegrass.

“We constantly attempted to reseed last year, but it was one of those situations where no sooner did you reseed, then you got too wet again,” Kevin said.

“I was still doing a lot of reseeding at the end of July but even some of the reseeded stuff, we just had to spray it out again and forget about it.

“So we chose areas for GM that had a history of weeds, particularly ryegrass and we chose areas that because the crop had been wiped out we had plenty of water.

“One of the things that always does well when you get flooded is the ryegrass.

“It grows well after the crop has died.

“We did all the normal management programs, but when you’ve got a big weed burden and when you get flooded you cannot deal with the weeds.”

Last year’s wet conditions made it hard for Kevin to accurately judge the yield performance of the GM canola.

“We got very wet last year so we can’t truly know how it went, but one of the paddocks of GM did very well,” he said.

“The best paddock did about 1.6 tonnes but all our yields were all over the shop.”

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails