New break crop proves drought-hardy

Super-high-oleic safflower outperforms canola at Quandialla, New South Wales

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Mixed farmers Bruce Slade, left, and Garreth Brose, right, and David Hudson, Go Resources research and development manager, check Bruce's safflower crop before harvesting on the family's Quandialla, New South Wales, farm. PHOTO Tegan Slade

Mixed farmers Bruce Slade, left, and Garreth Brose, right, and David Hudson, Go Resources research and development manager, check Bruce's safflower crop before harvesting on the family's Quandialla, New South Wales, farm. PHOTO Tegan Slade

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Bruce Slade shares what he learned from his first year of growing super-high-oleic safflower.

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New South Wales mixed farmer Bruce Slade will plant super-high-oleic (SHO) safflower again this year after discovering it tolerates the dry, sodic clay soils on his family's Quandialla farm better than canola.

Bruce planted a 15-hectare trial of E 40-R SHO safflower during 2019 following encouragement from his Young-based agronomist Dave Crowley from Delta Agribusiness.

Mr Crowley thought the new break crop might be worth trying to see how it handled Bruce's heavy sodic soils.

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Canola does not yield well on Bruce's 2300ha mixed farm unless it is planted early, subsoil moisture is plentiful and spring conditions are wet.

"We were looking for an alternative break crop that can get its roots into sodic soil and that's where we thought SHO safflower might fit the bill because it is moderately tolerant of this constraint," Mr Crowley says.

Super-high-oleic (SHO) safflower is crused to produce oil with an oleic acid content of more than 90 per cent, making it the only plant-based source of oil suitable for high-value industrial applications. PHOTO Tegan Slade

Super-high-oleic (SHO) safflower is crused to produce oil with an oleic acid content of more than 90 per cent, making it the only plant-based source of oil suitable for high-value industrial applications. PHOTO Tegan Slade

Bruce bought 270 kilograms of E 40-R seed from Go Resources.

In late May, he and his son-in-law Garreth Brose sowed 18kg/ha of seed 50 millimetres deep into wheat stubble on 228.6mm row spacings.

Since the previous wheat crop had failed because of dry conditions in 2018, 60kg/ha of mono-ammonium phosphate was applied at sowing. Bruce would usually apply 80kg/ha of MAP. Talstar was applied after sowing to protect against redlegged earth mites.

During August, clethodim was applied to control grass weeds. A broadleaf spray was not needed.

The crop was scheduled for harvest on 2 January. However, Bruce says this was about two weeks too late because the SHO safflower was over-ripe, making it difficult to achieve a clean sample.

Super-high-oleic (SHO) safflower was developed by the joint GRDC-CSIRO Crop Biofactories Initiative to expand crop options and develop new markets for Australian grain growers. PHOTO Tegan Slade

Super-high-oleic (SHO) safflower was developed by the joint GRDC-CSIRO Crop Biofactories Initiative to expand crop options and develop new markets for Australian grain growers. PHOTO Tegan Slade

Bruce and Garreth returned to the paddock early the following morning to finish stripping when conditions were cool and moist.

"We should have stripped the crop on 19 December to reduce shattering, but we wanted to make sure the seed moisture was under eight per cent," Bruce says. "There were even a few green pods around the edge of the crop, so I thought there was no rush."

Ideally, he suggests using a draper front to reduce front-end losses and to harvest at 10 to 12 kilometres per hour.

Although 2019's dry conditions reduced the yield, leaving just 400kg/ha of seed, Bruce was happy with the result when compared against canola.

Bruce Slade, Quandialla, New South Wales, used a conventional front to harvest his 15 hectare trial plot of super-high-oleic safflowers and reported high losses. He says a draper front would result in fewer losses. PHOTO Tegan Slade

Bruce Slade, Quandialla, New South Wales, used a conventional front to harvest his 15 hectare trial plot of super-high-oleic safflowers and reported high losses. He says a draper front would result in fewer losses. PHOTO Tegan Slade

He says Go Resources offered $650/t on-farm for the grain, allowing the trial to break even.

"Our canola and some wheat didn't cover costs," Bruce says. "I'll have another crack at growing it across 100ha this year."

To others with sodic soils, Bruce says SHO safflower is not a crop to be frightened of growing.

With just 260mm of rain recorded in 2019, and the second-worst season on record, Bruce says the crop was one good rain away from achieving a reasonable yield. Mr Crowley agrees, adding the SHO safflower hung on remarkably well given the lack of rainfall.

More information: Bruce Slade, 0427 051 155, sladepastoral@gmail.com; Dave Crowley, 0428 294 977, dcrowley@deltaag.com.au

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