Dry seeding investigated for low rainfall areas

Countryman

Opportunities for successful cropping in low rainfall areas of WA have been boosted with a new research project examining the risks associated with dry seeding.

The four-year project conducted by the Department of Agriculture and Food, WANTFA and CSIRO, with funding from the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), aims to clarify the impact of dry and early sown crop on production risks such as drought, frost and high temperature in low rainfall cropping programs

The research will be presented at Merredin research station's 100th field day on September 26.

Department senior research officer Darshan Sharma said the research, which followed related field experiments conducted in 2011 and 2012 on early-sown canola, would have wide application to low rainfall cropping areas throughout WA.

"Dry sowing enables growers to finish seeding programs earlier, maximise water-use and significantly reduce late sown yield penalty," Dr Sharma said. "For example, every location has a variety-specific optimum sowing window of about a fortnight. Crops sown after the window can result in reduced yield from moisture stress and heat stress.

"This late sown penalty can vary from 10 to 40kg/ha/day.

"However, dry sown crops risk early water deficit which can also result in reduced yield.

"Previous research has shown that yield losses due to early water deficit can be compensated by good growth following rains later in the season, but the extent of compensation may vary with crop species.

"An important strategy for dry sowing and early wet sowing could be to dry seed a bigger proportion of the species which has a greater capacity to effectively utilise late rain and make up for the damage caused by early water deficit."

Dr Sharma said a trial at Merredin this year compared the growth and development of early sown wheat and canola exposed to a wide range of water conditions after emergence in relation to which species better maintained plant density and early growth under early water deficit conditions.

"The trial also examines which species can better compensate early growth losses with rains received later in winter or spring," Dr Sharma said.

Other department staff involved in this research include Doug Abrecht and Art Diggle.

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

Sign up for our emails