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Enquiring attitude opens opportunities

An early career research agronomist, Chloe Rout is gaining experience and building networks through both regional and national canola establishment research projects.
Photo: Evan Collis

Curiosity about canola and an enquiring attitude are opening opportunities for Chloe Rout.

Having grown up on a sheep and cropping farm in Western Australia’s south-west, Chloe opted for a gap year to explore and grow personally before entering university.

“A year spent working in Bremer Bay and Japan provided opportunity for reflection and personal growth, including learning a new language,” Ms Rout says.

She then initially started a geology degree at the University of Western Australia (UWA), but the need to find a purpose and look at the bigger picture led her back to her roots and a degree in agricultural science. During her degree she specialised in agricultural science and environmental science and explored her interests in data interpretation through broadening units.

I found it fascinating applying mathematical constructs to biological situations, looking for patterns and how this could inform our knowledge about the world around us.

During her time at university she completed a summer internship at CSIRO.

“This was an excellent opportunity to be immersed in research in an industry setting,” she says.

Working in Dr Andrew Fletcher’s team on a canola project, she was provided with formal and informal training opportunities. The internship covered a complete research project from planning to conducting the research to writing a report and presenting to peers.

“It was through this project that I saw the potential impact of research and development and the bigger grains industry picture,” she says.

For her honours year, she saw an opportunity to study the compensatory ability of hybrid canola in poor establishment situations, working with UWA academics Dr Ken Flower and Dr Matthais Leopold, as well as Dr Andrew Wherrett from Living Farm.

“The industry connection with Living Farm was invaluable and gave me the opportunity to work part time for Living Farm and then transition to full-time employment when I graduated as valedictorian at the end of 2022.”

Ms Rout has been involved in a GRDC National Grower Network project managed by Living Farm, which aims to validate and extend agronomic and management research on how to successfully establish canola in the low-rainfall zones of WA.

The fact that the need for this project was generated by growers provides real relevance to the research.

“Some growers have indicated canola areas sown can experience up to 50 per cent poor establishment when it is sown dry or into a drying profile. However, the drivers of poor establishment never seem to be the same from season to season or between locations.”

The project saw Living Farm collaborate with nine grower groups in the low and medium-rainfall zones over the two-year project, allowing them to provide input into trial treatments, ensuring locally relevant research.

“Participating grower groups were encouraged to drive much of the pre-trial decision-making related to site selection and specific treatment selections.”

This engagement was in the form of pre-seeding workshops and surveys with the participating grower groups, in addition to in-season trial field walks with growers, advisers and the broader industry to discuss treatments and wider observations from the project.

“We particularly focused on management options to limit large canola establishment failures and the participants flagged time of sowing, seeding depth, seeding rate, urea ammonium nitrate (UAN) fertiliser rate and placement, the use of soil wetters, wide row spacing, seed type – open-pollinated or hybrid – and seed size as potential treatments.

“Trials were conducted using these factors at 14 locations in the low-rainfall regions during the 2022 and 2023 seasons.

“This enabled us to collect a rigorous dataset to interrogate the effects of these factors on establishment and demonstrate clear messages for growers.

“Field walks and discussions with growers were an integral part of the project and a great means to validate grower standard practice and for growers to evaluate the ease of implementing treatments.”

The key findings from the project were:

  1. early sowing trials in Morawa, Yuna and Salmon Gums highlighted reduced establishment in response to hot conditions post-sowing, even in good moisture;
  2. seeding depth trials in Morawa and Merredin demonstrated sowing shallow (10 to 15 millimetres) in a dry soil profile significantly improved canola establishment compared to chasing moisture at 30 to 40mm depth;
  3. trials investigating the effect of UAN fertiliser placement showed deep banding the UAN fertiliser below the seed generally improved establishment in contrast to placing UAN with the seed; and
  4. the benefits of grading seed were explored in trials located in Salmons Gums and Holt Rock. Seed size significantly influenced canola establishment in Salmon Gums on a sandy soil type, but no significant difference was shown in the Holt Rock trial, although this might have been due to good soil moisture at seeding.

As her first career position out of university, Ms Rout says her job with Living Farm is giving her a breadth of experience, not only working on this project but also working with the National Canola Establishment project being led by Dr Fletcher.

“This gives me the opportunity to learn from experts and learn about canola performance in other environments across Australia.”

Ms Rout is now considering applying her enquiring attitude to further research training to add skills to her growing expertise.

What advice would she give students considering a career in agriculture? “Give it a go – you might be surprised where it can take you and what possible careers are out there in ag. Do not be afraid to apply for opportunities, as you may be pleasantly surprised at what doors these may open for you.”

More information: Chloe Rout,

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