Canola technology showcase

Jo FulwoodThe West Australian

Australian canola growers lag at least 400kg/ha behind their Canadian counterparts, and the productivity gap between the two countries is widening.

DuPont Pioneer managing director Australia Peter Kleinhanss believes opportunities exist for Australian farmers to close the yield gap through the use of technology in breeding programs.

Speaking at a Canola Technology Showcase in Northam last week, Mr Kleinhanss said almost 100 per cent of farmers in Canada had adopted hybrids and biotechnology. But Western Australian farmers, particularly in the northern agricultural region, had bucked that trend and were fast adopters of hybrid and genetic modification technology.

"Australia obviously has different challenges to Canada, our climate is much more variable, and the Canadian industry is much more mature, particularly in terms of industry investment," Mr Kleinhanss said.

"Australian farmers need technology investment if canola is going to remain part of the Australian agricultural industry and if we are going to close that gap and ensure Australian farmers are competitive in the international market place.

"But at the moment, we are just not keeping pace."

Mr Kleinhanss hinted at new technology that could become available in the near future that would widen the glyphosate application window for Roundup Ready canola.

DuPont is a major player in the global agricultural industry, with its agriculture and nutrition platform spending $1 billion annually on research.

According to DuPont Pioneer canola breeder Ray Cowley, the process of breeding canola can take up to 10 years from initiation to commercial release.

"We can start with 24,000 individual rows and it takes many generations of breeding for us to narrow that down to just the last few that have the agronomic traits, including a level of resistance to diseases such as blackleg," he said.

"For any line to get to the end point, its a long and rigorous process, and we need to put plans in place to understand what the market is looking for 9 to 10 years in advance. That's why continued grower feedback is important when setting our research priorities."

Dr Cowley said DuPont Pioneer ran several field trial sites in NSW, Victoria and WA each year, with Canadian research showing that small plot trial results didn't necessarily translate onto whole farm systems.

He said the best indicator of product performance for canola was through wide-area strip testing.

Dr Cowley said the organisation was committed to providing high quality canola seed.

"We provide a minimum 90 per cent germination commitment and we use independent laboratories to bring the seed into Western Australia," he said.

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