Kevin Morthorpe

Canola business lead and product stewardship manager
DuPont Pioneer Australia

The economic and agronomic benefits of buying quality assured hybrid canola seed from accredited commercial suppliers rather than retaining hybrid seed on-farm from the previous year has been demonstrated in independent trials in Australia1,2 and Canada3 across a decade of site-seasons.

The first locally-bred herbicide-tolerant canola hybrids were released by DuPont Pioneer in 2005 and the adoption of hybrids has quickly replaced the traditional open-pollinated varieties (except TT varieties), mainly because of the greater early vigour and yield realized by growers. This boost in field performance known as “hybrid vigour” lies in the first generation (F1) of the hybrid. In addition, to conferring hybrid vigour, hybridization in canola has allowed breeders to combine certain traits, such as herbicide tolerance and disease resistance, from two parental sources and more easily.

The production of hybrid seed is a challenging process and professional seed growers incur additional associated costs to meet DuPont Pioneer’s high quality specifications for hybrid seed and to help maintain Australia’s brand reputation for canola quality. Hybrid seed is undeniably an extra input cost of production, but quality assured seed is an investment in your success.

To make an informed seed choice for your farm business, growers need to know the benefits and how to assess the value of hybrid seed.

IMG_5668

GRDC-funded trials conducted in 2012 were the most recent demonstration of higher financial returns and reduced risks from commercial hybrid seed than retained F2 hybrid seed across growing zones. In summary, based on a $600-per-tonne canola price and a hybrid seed price of $26/kg, the advantage of commercial F1 hybrid seed averaged:-

  • $52 to $82 per hectare higher returns than retained seed at sites in the in low-rainfall zone;
  •  Nearly $100 per hectare higher returns than retained seed at sites in medium-high rainfall zones;
  •  Overall, yields of the retained F2 hybrids were seven to 17 per cent lower;
  •  Oil content in the retained hybrids was significantly lower than oil from commercial hybrids by o.6-0.9 per cent at all sites. This was equivalent to a $6/t premium of commercial hybrid seed over retained hybrid seed;
  •  Infection levels of blackleg were reduced when commercial hybrid seed was used;
  •  Additional costs associated with preparing retained hybrid seed for sowing in grading and seed dressing ranged from $12/ha to $18/ha.

Similar results have been shown at eight site-years in Saskatchewan and Alberta, Canada where yield averaged 13.5 per cent higher and a significant advantage shown at 84 per cent of the 25 sites for commercial hybrid seed over retained F2 seed. The range in the results (7-30% in Australia) and (8- 47%) in Canada are likely to be caused by seed treatment and seed quality management processes used by seed companies. Differences between hybrids reported in the trials are associated with the hybrid breeding system as well as the degree of heterosis (hybrid vigour) from the parent lines used to produce the canola hybrid. Other key issues to consider in your cost-benefit analysis for retained hybrid seed include the following observations in published trial results compared to seed quality specifications of commercial hybrid seed from DuPont Pioneer:-

  • Genetic purity. Genetic segregation in F2 hybrid seed have been shown to change the following agronomic characteristics in canola – plant establishment (reduces), plant vigour (declines), growing season length (longer), crops height (taller), blackleg resistance (declines), crop yield (declines), oil composition (alters) that may affect marketability or price premiums/discounts. The product warranty provided by DuPont Pioneer ensures the buyer of commercial hybrid seed that the seed is first generation and true to the characteristics for which it was released;
  • Herbicide tolerance. In retained F2 seed lots, up to 25 per cent of the crop would be expected to lack the herbicide tolerance trait in the F1 hybrid. Growers cannot be guaranteed of trait purity when using F2 retained hybrid seed and put crop safety at risk including the consequences of plant loss, crop damage and reduced yield. Commercial hybrid seed from DuPont Pioneer is extensively tested throughout the production process from breeder’s to commercial seed stages for crop safety when sprayed at label rates with registered herbicides;
  • Seed viability. Remember seed is alive and any ill-treatment will accelerate the ageing process causing the seed to lose vigour and not realize its genetic potential. Managing seed quality during production and seed storage is a commitment from DuPont Pioneer;
  • Seed hygiene. A key risk of using retained hybrid seed is contamination by weed seed (often associated with farm herbicide resistance) and disease infection (including blackleg spores and sclerotinia sclerotes). The team at DuPont Pioneer are specialists in hybrid seed quality assurance and protect your peace of mind with customised, professional seed treatment into every bag.

The bottom line. The value of buying quality assured canola hybrid seed is proven to increase financial returns and the right choice to reduce risks for your farm business. Using retained hybrid seed is false economy and should not be recommended.

Resources:

1 “Trials show commercial hybrids deliver higher returns” T Potter. GRDC project code YCR00001 (2012).

2 “A comparison of retained and commercial hybrid and open pollinated canola seed: effect on factors affecting yield” Steve Marcroft, Marcroft Grains pathology and Trent Potter, SARDI. Australian Oilseeds Federation: Better Oilseeds project (2009).

3 “Comparison of Certified and Farm-Saved Seed on Yield and Quality Characteristics of Canola” G. W. Clayton,* S. Brandt, E. N. Johnson, J. T. O’Donovan, K. N. Harker, R. E. Blackshaw, E. G. Smith, H. R. Kutcher, C. Vera, and M. Hartman Agronomy Journal: 101, 1581-1588 (2009).