Central Queensland grain growers will be given a tantalising insight into `what’s possible’ on the sorghum yield frontier at December 2018’s Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Grains Research Updates in Emerald and Biloela.
Research suggests sorghum growers can achieve significant yield increases by better matching hybrid selection and agronomic management to local growing conditions and seasonal outlooks.
With higher yielding hybrids offering new attributes and characteristics now available, it’s important that appropriate agronomic management is implemented if growers are to reap the productivity benefits.
Extensive research into sorghum agronomy in central Queensland during the late 1990s and early 2000s by the CQ sustainable farming systems project helped bridge knowledge gaps on the effect of row configuration and plant population in low, intermediate and high yielding environments.
However, agronomic practices, technology and sorghum genetics have since evolved to a point where gaps again exist around how to optimise yield and quality for some of the new high yielding hybrids on the market.
In 2014, the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) led a GRDC funded trial program focussing on a range of agronomic configurations including population x hybrid in various environments and row spacing configurations, with the aim of maximising yield with newer hybrid types and determining whether existing agronomy rules of thumb require updating.
Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) senior regional research agronomist Darren Aisthorpe said this trial data highlighted the need for more research into optimising individual hybrid yield for a given amount of plant available water (PAW).
“Trial results showed considerable yield variations for any one amount of PAW, suggesting that growers who optimise planting configurations to suit a given hybrid and the conditions it is being planted into, can derive significant benefits,” Mr Aisthorpe said.
“While maximising yield for the water available to the plant is generally always the goal of growers, achieving this at the cost of high screenings and possibly severe dockage or screening costs to make the product marketable is not.”
Trial work in 2017 in central Queensland, as part of the QAAFI/GRDC project planted four hybrids on both skip row and solid one metre row spacing configurations, at three different population densities. Non-limiting supplies of nitrogen and phosphorus and a full profile of moisture at planting were provided, with the trial then subsequently treated as a dryland crop.
Mr Aisthorpe said yield responses clearly showed that the solid one metre row spacing, high population configuration, maximised yields for the trial conditions for all hybrids.
“How each hybrid developed yield was also assessed, with all four hybrids showing that as population increases, tiller contribution to total yield declines – a result that’s been consistent across a range of research work.
“However when grain size is considered, we observed average screenings for two of the hybrids starting to spike above five per cent, and individual plot results in excess of 10 per cent for some of the solid row spacing, higher population treatments.
“This raises some interesting questions over which agronomic management strategies are best suited to the newer varieties.”
These agronomic strategies will be discussed during presentations by Mr Aisthorpe and Pacific Seeds summer grains agronomist Trevor Philp on grain sorghum agronomy and management at the GRDC Updates in Emerald and Biloela.
Also on the agendas are presentations by Australian Herbicide Resistance Initiative (AHRI) northern extension agronomist Paul McIntosh on chaff lining and tramlining problem weeds, and glyphosate resistant milk (sow) thistle; Back Paddock’s Chris Dowling on practical applications of nitrogen research; Kotzur Silos managing director Andrew Kotzur on designing flexible mid-size on-farm grain handling facilities; DAF senior development agronomist Phil Burrill on what’s new in grain storage; DAF senior entomologist Melina Miles on helicoverpa resistance as well as an overview of the new chickpea variety PBA Drummond by DAF’s chickpea breeder, Dr Merrill Ryan.
The Emerald Update will feature an additional presentation by Mr Aisthorpe on gross margins and the dollar return per millimetre of water within central Queensland farming systems while the Biloela Update will include a detailed presentation on the biology, management and glyphosate resistance implications of sowthistle by Paul McIntosh.
The Emerald GRDC Update will be held at the McIndoe Function Centre on Tuesday December 4 2018 while the Biloela GRDC Update will be held at the Anzac Memorial Club on Wednesday December 5 2018.
Registration is 8:30am and the program will conclude at approximately 3:15pm. Morning tea, lunch and proceedings are included, and the cost is $30 per person and $20 for additional attendees from the business.
Featured Image: Darren Aisthorpe – sorghum. Image courtesy of GRDC