ENCOUNTERING less glyphosate resistance than growers of regular canola varieties and the ease of management were some of the surprising lessons learned by Vic croppers in their formative years growing genetically-modified canola.
With GM canola likely to become an option for SA growers in 2021, Dagro Consulting agronomist Craig Drum, based at Tatyoon, Vic, shared his and his growers' learnings and experiences of implementing the new technology into their farming systems with the audience of an online GRDC Grains Research Update for Port Lincoln and surrounds.
Mr Drum said Vic Western District farmers had been growing Roundup-Ready canola since the moratorium was lifted in 2008, with very little grown until 2014.
"I think everyone thought it would be a silver bullet when it first came out in 2008 and 2009, but people soon realised they still had to use good farming practices - using a pre-emergent herbicide is still very important," he said. "Since 2014 we've had one variety in particular which has been a really high yielder and that's probably what's driven the growth more than anything else.
"The two main reasons for adoption have been yield - Pioneer 45Y25 RR has been an outstanding variety in our part of the world and at the top in terms of yield - and weed control."
Mr Drum said growers incorporating GM canola had commented on its management ease, contributed to by hybrid vigour and fast growth.
"The other benefit we've seen is the guys growing RR canola will use their two, sometimes three, Roundups in one year so it's all still the one generation - two in crop and one at windrowing time.
"The following year, at least one year after, maybe two, they won't use any glyphosate at all so the paddock will get a full 12 month break from any glyphosate.
"Most of my RR growers have got less of a glyphosate resistance issue than the ones who aren't."
He said glyphosate resistance would still be a problem if not managed properly, but when managed correctly, it could be beneficial.
There had been some disincentives to GM canola adoption for growers in Mr Drum's region, the main ones being cost and prices received at harvest time.
Once seed cost and technology fees were accounted for, GM canola seed could cost $40 a kilogram or more.
"In our environment we're putting out about 3/kg to the hectare of seed, so there's $120/ha just on seed," Mr Drum said.
"The second one is price at harvest time. The difference between GM and non-GM canola can vary from $10/t and $80/t and if you're delivering into the system that's where you'll see the big difference at times."
STORAGE ESSENTIAL IN RECEIVING BEST PRICE
THE prices growers could expect to receive at harvest time for genetically-modified canola have dictated the type of farming operations able to grow it, according to Dagro Consulting agronomist Craig Drum, Tatyoon, Vic.
He said among is clients, those that had adopted GM canola more extensively were bigger operators who were better set up to handle the logistics of growing GM and able to store it on-farm.
"That big price gap we see at harvest time between GM canola and conventional canola is not there if you're prepared to store on-farm and sell it a week or a month after harvest," he said.
"There is markets in Vic where a lot of GM canola goes to piggeries and chook farms and they can't take a lot of it at harvest.
"If you're prepared to store a lot of it on-farm they'll take it off your hands throughout the season and you'll find there is very little difference in the price between GM and non-GM then.
"Hence you've got to have storage on-farm to capitalise on that."
Mr Drum said anyone growing GM and non-GM on the same farm also had to ensure all harvest equipment was cleaned well and regularly to avoid any contamination problems.
There had been a significant increase in acreage of GM canola in Western Vic since 2014, according to Mr Drum, with about 20 per cent of the total canola crop a GM variety.
In the region, many of the soils are clay over heavy clay, with an average rainfall of 450 millimetres to 600mm, with much of that rain coming in winter and spring.
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