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Canola supports weed control in a diverse rotation

Frank Archer in a crop of Hyola® 970CL canola on the mixed farm he manages west of Cressy in Tasmania.
Photo: Nicole Baxter

While poppies are the most-profitable crop grown on the Price family’s landholding near Cressy in northern Tasmania, farm manager Frank Archer says dual-purpose canola is helpful for weed management.

He sows Hyola® 970CL at three kilograms per hectare on dryland paddocks at the end of March after a pasture phase. Aside from helping to manage weeds, the dual-purpose crop also provides valuable winter feed for 2000 sheep.

It has challenges, however. When GroundCover™ visited Frank, 28ha of his 40ha canola crop had set pods. But, heartbreakingly, 30 per cent of the 40ha had been lost to flooding.

“About 12ha of our 2022-planted canola was on river flats, which became inundated with water and died,” Frank says. “We also had to spray out a flooded canola seed crop.”

His 2022 Hyola® 970CL was sown with 100kg/ha of diammonium phosphate. When the ground was covered, he added 50kg/ha of ammonium sulfate and 50kg/ha of urea.

He moved sheep onto the canola when the plants were anchored and removed the stock when conditions became too wet to avoid pugging. He says growing dual-purpose canola means pastures can be rested.

In 2022, he applied 300kg/ha of urea in three 100kg/ha applications because “it kept raining, and everything looked so good”. Also applied were imazamox plus imazapyr (Intervix®) and clethodim (Select®) to control broadleaf weeds and grasses.

Fungicide was added to protect against Sclerotinia. The fungicide also acts as a growth regulator to limit crop height.

Frank has tried direct-heading canola but prefers windrowing.

“Our 2021 crop was so big, it didn’t feed well into the harvester, which extended the harvesting window,” he says.

“We would have been better off windrowing.”

He says Hyola® 970CL yields between 3.8 tonnes/ha and 4t/ha. But waterlogged areas can yield nothing, and flooding is always a risk when rainfall is high.

For example, 2022 was shaping up to be the farm’s best year, but when 400 millimetres of rain fell on 16 October, the Lake River flooded and wiped out 170ha of canola, wheat, and poppies.

“It was the biggest flood we’ve had,” he says. “We considered sowing barley, but April is not an ideal time to harvest because conditions are usually wet. Accordingly, we left the ground fallow.

“It’s one of the worst years we’ve seen financially, and I’ll be glad to plant our 2023 crops.”

Frank prefers drier seasonal conditions than he experienced in 2022 because they yield bigger crops.

“We have our best yields in drier years because we can control our water,” he says. “Irrigation is expensive, but at least we can water the crop whenever needed. It doesn’t cost as much as waterlogging or a flood.”

One example of what Frank can do given more-favourable seasonal conditions is evidenced by his recent achievement of growing one of Australia’s highest-yielding wheat crops in 2021. His 50.2ha Accroc wheat crop, submitted for analysis for GRDC’s 2021 Hyper Yielding Crops award, yielded a whopping 13.3t/ha.

Read also: 'Pupil' shows what is possible with an award-winning wheat crop.

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