New nitrogen findings go with the grain

Oats in WA.
Camera IconOats in WA. Credit: GRDC

Targeted nitrogen management strategies can help optimise both grain yield and quality for early-sown oats in the western region, according to preliminary results from a Grain Research and Development Corporation investment.

The research, conducted by Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development research scientist Georgie Troup, is investigating agronomy practices and international varieties that may have a fit for early sowing in WA.

DAFWA research officer Georgie Troup.
Camera IconDAFWA research officer Georgie Troup. Credit: Melissa Williams / GRDC

WA agronomy research trials started in 2019 have been investigating the best rate and timing for nitrogen application for April-sown oats, to increase the likelihood of growers meeting tightened milling oat quality specifications.

“There was an interaction between sowing date and applied nitrogen rate at Bindi Bindi and Highbury, but not at the Nunile site (near Toodyay),” Ms Troup said.

“Increasing the amount of applied nitrogen resulted in increased grain yield on early-sown oat crops of 0.4-0.5 tonnes per hectare.

However, in 2019, increasing applied nitrogen had no positive influence on grain yield when sowing was delayed, with the crop unable to take up the increased nitrogen in a shorter, drier-than-average growing season.

“Missing an early sowing opportunity in 2019 resulted in a 36 per cent reduction in grain yield, as the season break didn’t occur until mid-May at Highbury, and early June at Nunile and Bindi Bindi.”

Ms Troup said the effects of timing of application were different at every trial site due to the varied growing conditions at the three locations.

More broadly, Ms Troup said the evaluation of international oat varieties at Northam and Katanning had identified opportunities for more diverse maturity types to be grown in WA.

“The inclusion of longer spring and winter types in trials has been an eye opener for me and will provide valuable information to breeders who will also be looking to early sowing opportunities to maximise oat yield and quality,” she said.

Ms Troup said the project team would monitor the trials closely this year, along with testing beta glucan levels in the oats to determine the effect of genotype, the environment and changes in agronomy.

“Beta glucan is an important factor in export markets due to its dietary health benefits,” she said.

“This research project is the first of its kind in Australia where beta glucan is being closely monitored to determine how it can be increased, making our oat crop more valuable and globally competitive.”

In 2019, WA growers were able to see and experience first-hand the results of the oat agronomy research, participating in several field walks during the growing season.

“This trial work is helping to support oat growing in the western region. It is providing growers with information and giving them an opportunity to see best-practice agronomy in their region.” Ms Troup said.

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