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GM another tool in the shed

Kate MatthewsCountryman

After just one season of growing genetically modified canola, Ian Peacock is sold on its benefits.

The Gairdner farmer said he would use it in a nine to 12-year cropping plan that will allow him to rotate between GM, open-pollinated hybrids and Clearfield canola.

The cropping plan was suggested by the Peacock family’s agronomist to help to extend the life of the technology and available chemicals.

“Most people growing GM crops will have to alter their thinking about their rotations.

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It’s nothing new and we’ve been doing it all our lives,” Mr Peacock said.

“This is just another tool in the arsenal we can use to make our cropping program sustainable.”

Despite a poor and dry year, Mr Peacock said his GM canola outperformed other varieties.

He said his Hylola 501 paddocks were still green and hung in until the end of October compared to open-pollinated Argyle, which didn’t fill and struggled.

“Of what we have harvested, the GM canola has averaged 1.5 tonne per hectare.

The rest is going 0.5 to 0.6 tonne per hectare, so it’s roughly an extra tonne to the hectare better, which at the moment is about $570 per hectare,” he said.

Last year, Argyle was the best performer on the farm, yielding 1.3 to 1.4t/ha.

The other benefits for the Peacock family is no freight disadvantage, since they can cart to Wellstead, and the agronomic advantage of killing weeds for the following crop.

“The only disadvantage is the seed cost and the extra on the end point royalties, which is above other varieties. But it should come down over time and if it doesn’t, people will move to use other alternatives,” Mr Peacock said.

“Breeders need to look at reducing their seed price. If they need to make more money, they should look at increasing the royalty — and if it’s a good producer, I’d be prepared to pay more instead of wasting $25 a kilogram upfront on seed.

“The main message from me is that GM canola has been around for 14 to 15 years.

“It’s old technology that’s widely accepted through the world. Canada has been growing it for 14 years — it doesn’t segregate and our traditional markets have been buying its GM canola for years.

“There hasn’t been, to my knowledge, any litigation in places like Canada.

“So, in the short-term, farmers including GM and organic growers need to work together to mitigate contamination on both sides.

“But in the long-term, I think GM crops will become the norm,” he said.

“I want to see GM cereals — that’s our next and only hope for progress in yields and disease resistance in cereal crops.”

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