With increasing pressure on farm input costs, farmers and those advising them may overlook the significant pitfalls in seeking to cut corners and long-term risks with retained seed.

The Australian Oilseeds Federation’s Strategic Plan 2015-25 recognizes that Canola will remain an export oriented industry in its future outlook. The keys to success lie with leadership in productivity gains that underpin competitiveness of local product and vigilance on maintaining access to key markets (EU, China, and Japan).

The concerns with retained seed in canola are based on recognition of key trends towards an intrinsic reliance on growing Triazine tolerant (TT) canola (estimated at 67 percent of the planted canola area) and a very high level of retaining seed particularly in the TT market segment (estimated at over 80 percent)

The concerns with retained seed from a farmer’s perspective include:-

  • Researchers have demonstrated the effects on canola performance of using other than first-generation seed from genetic drift, lack of trait purity impacting crop safety of herbicide-tolerant varieties and/or loss of hybrid heterosis benefits;
  • Uncertainty in seed quality with most farmers failing to test purity and germination on retained seed for sowing;
  • Reduced seed viability and vigour as a result of poor seed storage hygiene, leading to significant risk of establishment failure and lower yield;
  • Using seed for planting crops that may be contaminated with pests or disease (e.g. sclerotes) and create risk of transferring herbicide resistance onto and across the farm;
  • Limiting scope for further productivity gains through investment in hybrid breeding and technology innovation;
  • Added risk of not meeting grain quality contract specifications to secure price premiums and evolving requirements (e.g. EU RED certification) from key markets.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Benefits of Commercial Seed vs Retained Canola Seed

Yield of retained hybrid seed were seven to 17 percent lower. Extra oil content of commercial hybrid seed was expected to give a $7/t premium over retained seed. The cost-benefit analysis is based on a average 12 percent yield disadvantage, commercial seed price(retail) of $28/kg for TT or Clearfield hybrid seed with BettaStrike® protection and a cost of $15/ha to prepare retained seed for sowing (including foregone grain returns, storage, grading and seed dressing).

Commercial canola hybrid seed $/ha VS Retained canola seed $/ha
Yield (2.0 t/ha) Yield (1.76 t/ha)
Gross Income with oil bonus* $1,094.00 Gross Income* $950.40
Less: Seed Cost (2.2 kg/ha) $61.60 Less: Seed Cost $15.00
NET RETURN $1032.40   NET RETURN $935.40
Net Return (commercial hybrid seed) = $97.00/ha advantage over retained seed

*Based on a $540-per-tonne canola grain price (ABARE, 2015-16 f) and bonification oil bonus of 1.5 percent in price per one percent oil content in Australia. In 2004, the advantage in net returns over retained seed was calculated at $74.40/ha.

 

The concerns with retained seed from a supply chain perspective include:-

  • can be expected to continue to “drag down” average yields based on market segmentation trends against competing countries (Canada, Ukraine) globally;
  • challenges from lack of vigilance on issues management particularly improving canola oil quality and maintaining market choice that underpin the reputation of Australian brand canola;
  • reduce profitability of canola as a rotational crop that supports grower confidence against alternative commodities (pulses, barley);
  • ensuring confidence for continued industry investment throughout the value chain including oilseed breeders, crushers, refiners and end users.
  • erosion of grain quality (e.g. declining Iodine Value), leading to potential loss of consumer acceptance and/or market access.

The economics of retaining canola seed need to be assessed beyond the farm-gate. In reality, investment throughout the supply chain and proactively supporting the industry’s license to operate will shape opportunities to drive future demand and improve value of canola as a rotational crop for farmers and other stakeholders.

In reality, about half of the economic gains in farming systems between 1996 and 2013 are attributed to reduced production costs; the other half is due to substantial yield gains. Purchasing first generation (F1) hybrid seed is an investment in the quality, yield potential and marketability of canola crops. Advisors in the 2016 season can help farmers make an informed seed choice for the farm business and identify opportunities to apply advanced farming practices that in turn maximize investments in seed and other inputs.