Having grown canola in Canada for many years, WA farmer Doug Wright is in a good position to judge the merits of canola hybrid technology.
Canadian farmers are known to have much higher rates of hybrid canola adoption than their Australian colleagues, however when Doug and his family moved from southern Alberta back to farm in Borden, he certainly retained the Canadian enthusiasm for hybrids.
While he grows a large range of varieties, it all comes back to one common reason – their excellent vigour.
“Vigour is very important to me, on anything I grow actually, because if you get that plant out of the ground and growing, it’s got a jump on the weeds, so you get better weed control and also better general plant health, it builds that strength,” he explains.
Doug started growing hybrid canola in Canada in 1996, initially growing Dupont Pioneer Liberty Link varieties due to their different chemistry and superior vigour.
“The adoption of hybrids in Canada was a little slow in the first couple of years, but once people realised what was going on, everyone got into it then.
In fact that’s when no-till really took off in Canada because of the different rotations – farmers could set their rotations up and get into no-till – it changed the whole face of dry-land agriculture over there,” he says.
Now he’s back in Australia, Doug is a strong advocate for hybrids, growing a range of varieties, including Pioneer® brand 44Y24 hybrid canola.
“I’ve been growing 44Y24 for the last couple of years, and I’ve found its early vigour is good, it just bounces out of the ground.
44Y24 is just a very consistent canola and was our highest yielder last year – in fact it has yielded above all the canola’s I’ve grown,” he explains.
Part of its success, Doug believes, is that 44Y24 establishes better than other varieties.
“It has the best strike rate for germination of all the Roundup Ready® varieties I’ve grown, which helps, and it also flowers a little later, but ultimately quicker, than most of the others.
I’ve also found the 44Y24 to be good in terms of handling pests and diseases – although we’ve had a touch of sclerotinia this season, last year I didn’t have any problems in the variety, when the others did.
While pests and diseases are of course seasonal, I can say it’s a good strong healthy plant, and that helps,” Doug says.
So back to the question of why Australian farmers lag behind Canada in terms of hybrid canola adoption rates? It’s something that has Doug stumped.
“It’s a good question actually – I would think the opposition to it here has maybe scared people a bit, whereas there was no opposition at all in Canada to it, farmers just adopted it because they could see the benefits of it.
It’s a strange one – I can’t figure it out because to me the Australian canola industry is 10 years behind Canada.
I think Australian farmers will start to adopt the technology a bit more, it’ll slowly get there, but it’s going to take awhile, ” he says.