CANOLA producers this season face a myriad of tough decisions.
For those with light crops the issues surround the perennial topic of direct heading versus windrowing.
But even if growers have decided their management strategy, whether it be windrowing or desiccation or both, the industry has also raised the topic of correct seed colour.
Australian Oilseeds Federation executive director Nick Goddard said last year there had been an incorrect interpretation of what constituted green seed in canola.
Farmers are allowed a maximum of 2pc green seed in their sample, however Mr Goddard said that an incorrect visual image of ‘Green Seed’ in the GTA Visual Reference Standard Guide (VRSG) for last season saw consignments of canola accepted on delivery with too much green seed present.
He said the AOF has recently issued a guide it wants to help growers with identifying correct growth stages through seed colour.
It will be important for growers to get it right, with Mr Goddard saying the interpretations of green seed will be much tighter.
“We are reminding growers that grain colour will be assessed against the visual standard published in this year’s VRSG.”
As well as the green seed issue, farmers need to make the right seed colour decision to maximise yield and oil levels.
“Canola seed colour change indicates peak yield and oil content, making it the key determinant for timing windrowing or desiccation,” Mr Goddard said.
Farmers need to be organised and ready to go – with research showing crops could change from 18pc changed seed colour to 61pc in just five days.
South Australian canola industry stalwart, consultant Trent Potter, Yeruga Crop Research, said growers were making decisions about windrowing and desiccation that would either make or cost them dollars, especially in areas with good crops.
“Unfortunately there will low oil levels and green seed, due to seed being terminated before it is ripe, in NSW and there is nothing you can do about that.”
“However, under favourable conditions the correct timing of windrowing or desiccation will mean growers maximise the yield and the oil content and also avoid any penalty for green seed,” he said.
In terms of making decisions, Mr Potter said growers needed to take the time to physically check seed colour themselves.
Mr Potter said it is imperative that growers open the pods and check the seed colour themselves.
“A visual estimation based on pod colour is not sufficient and will result in lost profits if not quality downgrades,” he said.
Kelly Angel, Birchip Cropping Group (BCG) said growers faced a tough decision regarding whether to spend the extra money on windrowing or not.
“Some frost affected crops are going to be light in the windrow, but at the same time they will be potentially harder to thresh if not windrowed.”
Harkening back to the seed colour issue, Ms Angel said decisions needed to be based on whether windrowing equipment could be accessed at the correct time.
Logistically, she said windrowing could bring canola in quicker so it was ready before other earlier harvested crops like barley and lentils.
Ms Angel said work conducted by NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) researcher Rick Graham had shed more light on the optimum time for windrowing.
The research shows physiological maturity in canola is reached when 40–60 per cent of seeds on the main stem change colour from green to red, brown or black.
However, their research has also shown the importance of assessing seed colour change on the canola plant branches as around 70pc of the crop yield is held on the plant branches rather than the main stem.
Mr Graham said windrow timing studies in 2015 and 2016 clearly demonstrated the importance of correct timing.
“There was less than a week between too early and optimal timing,” he said.
“In five days the seed colour change on the primary stem increased from 18pc to 61pc.”