Right now is a time when crop surety has never been more important for Australia's maturing edible soybean industry, with strong demand from end-users keen on Australian quality. But recent weather has made a mess of paddocks normally suited to the legume.
It is timely that new soybean variety Gwydir - aimed at farmers on the northern slopes and plains of NSW - made its debut last week.
Developed by the research team at Trenayr, the NSW DPI's research station near Grafton, the rust-resistant high-yielding variety - producing 0.5 t/ha more than other varieties on average - also suits an early spring sowing on the North Coast with the potential for a February harvest.
In coastal sugar cane systems the spring crop has the potential to be followed by another soybean planting using the late season Hayman variety to really capitalise on money in the bank and nitrogen in the soil - 45 kg of nitrogen in the soil for every one tonne of grain.
That nitrogen residue is made available to plants gradually over about a six month period, depending on whether the soil is wet or dry.
Of course, many soybean crops on the lower river floodplains are wiped-out this year, with about a 90 per cent loss in those areas that stayed under water for several days.
A close relationship between researchers and growers on the Northern Rivers has seen the crop jump from 20,000 t/year to five times that figure.
NSW DPI Technical Officer Mr Nathan Ensbey said there remains a desire to grow the national crop beyond 100,000 t/yr.
At that volume, there would be more incentive for GRDC to continue its funding support and greater opportunities to develop and sustain new markets.
So the emergence of soybean growers west of the divide is increasingly important if Australia wants to maintain a viable soybean industry, with strong demand for non-genetically modified, clean and mostly green high quality Australian-grown product.
The narrow-leaf Gwydir variety is a favourite of long-time Trenayr team leader Dr Natalie Moore, who says the trait allows better spray penetration and more light deep into the canopy, where it can stimulate pod-set after flowering.
The variety is the first release for NSW with resistance to soybean leaf rust.
Soybean producers on the Western Downs in Queensland are having good success even during dry times by reducing plant population by up to one-third, so that numbers of stems don't compete with each other for available resources, says PB Agrifoods field officer Ian Morgan, another pioneer of the Australian industry.
"Too many plants can act like weeds to each other," he says.
PB Agrifoods last year released two new varieties based on US research and it is this commitment to industry growth and refinement that is a strength in soy, Mr Morgan said.
Trials have confirmed that Gwydir matures on average eight days quicker than the old Soya 791 variety while nothing matures as quickly as Moonbi, which is a parent of the latest release. However, Moonbi's inability to branch results in lower yield.
Seed, initially accumulated by Dr Moore and her technical officer Nathan Ensbey for Soy Australia, will be commercially available from next season but stocks will unfortunately be limited due to losses on the coast.
One paddock of Gwydir belonging to growers Mark and Beverley North at Condong on the Tweed planted September 6 came off second week in February and could have been harvested sooner if the season had provided a modicum of sunshine.
Never-the-less it "yielded its head off" according to Mr Ensbey, who reported 4.9 t/ha.
In spite of the challenging season there was no lodging, with plants only 50 cm tall but "stacked with pods".
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