Canola demand places pressure on seed supplies

By Gregor Heard and Annabelle Cleeland
Updated March 22 2022 - 5:16am, first published 3:30am
Nutrien Ag Solutions Elmore agronomist Greg Toomey says there is strong demand for canola seed this year.

THE SKY HIGH price of canola, combined with the full soil moisture profile through much of the east coast has meant another year of high demand and some types of certified canola seed are proving hard to get.

Hybrid varieties are particularly sought after and even though many retailers took a more aggressive position in terms of forward orders certain varieties, particularly double stacked hybrid varieties, such as Truflex, Clearfield / triazine tolerant and glyphosate / Clearfield tolerant are proving hard to find.

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However, industry leaders believe there is enough seed to go around for the 2022 plant, especially with farmers utilising stored open pollinated or even second generation hybrid seed as alternatives.

Nick Goddard, Australian Oilseeds Federation executive officer, said the AOF expected canola plantings to ease back from last year's record levels, but more on the back of rotational issues than seed shortages.

"We're hearing that growers, guided by the good prices over the past two years, have really pushed the rotations hard so there just might not be the suitable paddocks for canola," Mr Goddard said.

"In terms of seed, it is almost the standard now that farmers looking to ensure they have supply of the popular varieties get their orders in early and those sought after lines will be harder to find leading into sowing."

"That said, farmers who really want to sow canola have the option of growing open pollinated stored seed or even F2 hybrid seed, which has been done relatively successfully by upping the sowing rates."

Nutrien Ag Solutions Elmore, Victoria, agronomist Greg Toomey said supply chain disruptions were having an impact in the seed sector.

"In areas they produce seed crops, there were extreme spring rains and flooding in NSW and northern NSW that affected production and quality so canola seed is tight," Mr Toomey said.

"From NSW, Victoria and right across SA demand has exceeded the supply of canola seed."

He agreed with Mr Goddard that there would be farmers resorting to OP and stored hybrid seed, but added yield potential would be lower.

"It has lower yield potential but it does allow them to plant more."

Mr Toomey flagged an explosion of planted area in drier regions.

"In marginal areas, the price and stored soil moisture has encouraged growers to grow more canola than usual - this is where it will be an issue.

"Growers have seen the price and are going for large licks of canola where they haven't sown canola for 2-3 years."

One area Mr Toomey nominated was the outer Central West of NSW around Nyngan, where he said plantings would be well up.

Terry Fishpool, Tottenham, in the central west, said there would be a good plant of canola, but it would be dependent on moisture, which is centred on traditionally higher rainfall areas.

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"Probably around Grenfell, Cowra they have a good bank of moisture and there will be a lot going in, with people really interested in the long-season dual purpose winter canola where you get a graze as well as potentially grain at the end of the year," Mr Fishpool said.

However, he said the cost did put growers off.

"You would want to be certain of your moisture, you're talking $10,000 or so for 12 (25kg) bags, compared to $3/kg for something like a forage brassica."

Brett Hosking, Grain Growers chairman, said farmers were acutely aware of the high costs of canola seed, but said the moisture and the high prices meant seed was again in demand.

"We do get very good results with the hybrid varieties so there is the strong demand there, especially as we're seeing farmers in northern NSW and even Queensland willing to plant canola," Mr Hosking said.

"It will be hard to get your hands on certain varieties but farmers who want to plant canola will be able to get some sort of seed to do so, even if it isn't their first choice."

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He said the rising costs of canola seed and canola's status as a higher cost crop, with higher nutrient requirements was not deterring growers.

"People are definitely doing their sums and it is expensive to grow, but equally the prices are very good if you manage to grow it, so if the moisture is there people are happy to grow it."

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