By pushing the boundaries of sowing time and using long season winter wheats, the SA Crop Technology Centre at Hatherleigh in the South East has again seen some outstanding yields.
The seven winter wheats sown in mid-April outperformed the three spring wheats, with red feed wheats Annapurna and RGT Accroc the highest yielding at more than 11 tonnes a hectare.
This was even higher than the 10.63t/ha and 10.49t/ha they achieved in 2018 in the first year of the trial funded by Nutrien Ag Solutions and GRDC and run by FAR Australia.
In comparison, spring variety Trojan yielded only 3.73t/ha in 2019 with the 599 millimetres of growing season rainfall received between April and November.
FAR Australia managing director Nick Poole says the results show growers should rethink growing the spring-sown varieties they may have traditionally sown in May if they choose to sow earlier.
"We are not saying that mid-April is an easier or a better time to sow crops but if you have a sowing window in April you might need to review how you grow it and what you grow as the spring-sown varieties develop too quickly," he said.
He said local growers had noticed Annapurna and RGT Accroc seemed to have an ability to adapt to the particular season and also had the "right flowering window" near the end of October.
We are not saying that mid-April is an easier or a better time to sow crops but if you have a sowing window in April you might need to review how you grow it and what you grow.
"They are also challenging some of our current thoughts in how to put high yields together - they don't look to have particularly long foundation phases through to stem elongation," he said.
"They are almost more like a barley than a wheat (in their growth pattern) - it is something we hope to follow more in the future."
Mr Poole said increased disease pressure from septoria and rusts was a potential pitfall of early sowing.
It was important growers sought to use cultivars with at least some genetic resistance rather than rely on many fungicide sprays.
"Fungicides are some incredible technology that we use, but if you use less of them per season we will keep them for longer," he said.
Mr Poole hoped the centre could attract funding for another three years as there was plenty more to learn.
Millicent trial site gives top information
The SA Crop Technology Centre has been a game-changer in identifying winter wheat germplasm to achieve higher yields, but also "more professional" agronomic advice, according to Nutrien Ag Solutions agronomist James Heffernan.
"It has emphasised good fungicide and fertiliser management - we are not doing things for non-specific reasons where perhaps we may have been in the past," he said.
"I like to use the example of it being like a doctor writing a script based on science and trial work to help deliver these extreme yields."
Mr Heffernan was confident local growers could lift their average wheat yields closer to eight tonnes a hectare from the present average of 5t/ha to 6t/ha, with some 10t/ha crops already achieved in 2019.
But there was still more work to be done, including on water limited yield potential.
"We have found some game-changing techniques but the pursuit of higher yields is endless," he said.
" We need a crop technology centre that lasts a decade or more."
- Start the day with all the big news in agriculture. Click here to sign up to receive our daily Stock Journal newsletter.