New resource for Australian growers

Researchers at La Trobe University are leading a project to provide Australian growers with optimal sowing dates for wheat and barley

For wheat and barley, getting the flowering time right is key to optimising grain yields and minimising crop losses.

A collaborative Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) investment, led by La Trobe University researchers, is developing a platform to provide Australian growers with information on optimal sowing dates for both crops.

“Flowering time is determined by interactions between genetics, environment and management,” explains lead researcher, Associate Professor James Hunt. “The development speed of the cultivar, the environment it is grown in and the time of sowing are all factors.”

To ensure crops flower in the optimal period, growers need accurate information on a cultivar’s development speed – but that information is not usually available for up to three years after new cultivars are released onto the market.

The multidisciplinary research team – including partners CSIRO, Plant & Food Research New Zealand, the Department of Primary Industries and Regions research division South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), NSW Department of Primary Industries, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development WA, and Statistics for the Australian Grains Industry (SAGI) West – are working to overcome this problem.

Using a combination of field and controlled environment experiments, genetic analysis and simulation modelling, the team are working to improve the existing APSIM model of wheat and barley development.

The result? A web-based tool that accurately predicts flowering time for existing and new cultivars across all the major grain-growing regions of Australia.

“The new resource will be a game-changer for the agricultural industry,” says co-researcher Dr Corinne Celestina. “It will allow growers to make informed decisions about selection at point of cultivar release and optimal sowing time for their specific environment.”

Growers will be able to access this information as a tool on the National Variety Trials website from 2022.