As climate throws up new challenges each year, getting the flowering time right for canola could mean the difference in how much crop is harvested.
Research is underway to develop heat tolerant canola varieties to provide growers with options for shorter seasons to avoid drought and heatwave conditions in spring.
NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) director southern cropping, Deb Slinger, said by getting the flowering time right, damage from frost in-season and then heat at the end of the season was significantly reduced.
NSW DPI, along with Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and University of Western Australia, are in the third year of a five-year research program using heat chambers and an in-field screening method that elevates temperatures to mimic heat stress at the plant reproductive stages.
This affects the seed production and yield of the canola.
"Recent climate change predictions emphasise that the frequency of extreme climatic events is expected to increase and pose serious concerns to crop productivity," Ms Slinger said, who is also director of the NSW DPI Wagga Wagga Agricultural Institute.
She said it was important to breed varieties that adapted to future warming climates and for regions that were experiencing greater extremes of temperature.
"To get it right, research trials are conducted for five to six years to make sure we get the right varieties to grow in different areas," she said.
"Traditionally canola is sown before Anzac Day, but new varieties are pushing sowing earlier into March. Often by October, the season in the south is almost finished but it's getting quicker and quicker each year with climate changes.
"So producers are having to prepare for longer impacts from the variability in climates and climate change. We have to develop the right varieties so growers can be sure they get a good return."
While the national trials in NSW, Western Australia and Victoria are conducted where the majority of canola is grown, trial areas were stretching to Narrabri as there was an interest in heat tolerant varieties.
"People want to grow canola in those hotter environments," she said.
"In the years that chickpeas aren't doing well, canola can come into the system and give them a good return."
By doing this canola heat stress research, Ms Slinger said it would help increase the expansion of the industry into environments in northern NSW and southern Queensland that experience heat stress conditions.
Ms Slinger said the likely outcomes from heat tolerant varieties would be a 5 per cent increase in grain yield, which would result in an extra 140,000 tonnes of canola valued around $70 million.
"In the next year and a half we will understand what genetics suit each climatic zone," Ms Slinger said.
"The outputs of the research program will enable canola companies to target their breeding programs for each area of NSW with the most suitable varieties."
Ms Slinger said this research was also important for market access.
"Other countries use a lot of canola in biofuels and require high quality Australian canola for food, that's where it's important that in Australia we are hitting those markets where they need it," she said.
She said this demand was making a difference to the prices Australian producers were receiving.
"We need to keep being ahead to make sure international companies can get canola from Australia no matter the climate conditions producers face."
Recently NSW DPI hosted the International Rapeseed Congress Field Day at Wagga Wagga Agricultural Institute with 358 visitors, including 125 international researchers and canola company representatives.
There were 27 canola research projects on display and nine canola company's variety trials, including the National Variety Trials by GRDC. International researchers are keen to replicate the methods used with the heat tolerance research from Wagga Wagga.
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