The latest data on sorghum varieties is being gathered at 18 sites across northern New South Wales and southern and Central Queensland from the crop’s second year of inclusion in the National Variety Trials (NVT).
In 2018-19, 29 varieties from Advanta (Pacific) Seeds, Elders, Heritage Seeds, Nuseed, Pioneer, SV Genetics Pty Ltd and Radicle Seeds have been evaluated. This is up from 24 in the initial season.
After much consultation with growers and industry, sorghum in 2017 was the first summer crop to join the NVT program.
GRDC NVT officer (north) Laurie Fitzgerald says the present season presented some challenges that have mirrored those experienced by growers.
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“Soil moisture conditions were variable, with hot and dry conditions across the Darling Downs in particular at the start of the growing season,” Mr Fitzgerald says.
A localised rain event at Pallamallawa, NSW, on 19 September made it the first NVT site to be planted last year, with other southern Queensland and NSW sites sown from 25 to 30 October after a more general rain.
Many of the trials are handling the seasonal conditions well after summer thunderstorms delivered much-needed rain prior to Christmas.
Central Queensland plots were expected to be sown after required rainfall events in January, in line with district practices, which allows the crop to flower after peak summer temperatures.
“Trials are targeted to be sown when the growers in the district are sowing,” Mr Fitzgerald says.
Sorghum is the most profitable crop in the rotation for some growers in Queensland and northern NSW and initial results from the sorghum NVT will be available following a comprehensive analysis of the data over multiple sites and seasons to ensure that robust information is provided to growers.
Mr Fitzgerald says the NVT results will add depth to the data offered by seed companies, which have been supportive of sorghum’s inclusion in the standardised testing.
Trials are targeted to be sown when the growers in the district are sowing.
“We’re looking at maturity groups to suit environments, which will help growers pick the best variety for their region,” he says.
“Even between the Darling Downs and the Liverpool Plains, there was a huge variance in the season, and the NVT results will reflect how varieties fare in varying conditions.”
Crop walks through sorghum NVT trials to date have already attracted strong interest from growers, consultants and researchers keen to look at the performance of different varieties at each site.
An irrigated trial site in the Ord district of Western Australia’s Kimberley region is adding further depth to the knowledge on how different varieties perform.
Australian grain sorghum is a mainstay of northern farming systems, mostly used as poultry and pig feed, as a feedstock for biofuel production and in China to produce sorghum wine (baijiu).
With an average area of 650,000 hectares planted per year and annual production of 1.89 million tonnes, sorghum is Australia’s fifth-largest crop overall and the nation’s largest summer crop.
More information: Laurie Fitzgerald, 07 4571 4800, firstname.lastname@example.org