AgMemo - Grains news, October 2019

Page last updated: Wednesday, 27 November 2019 - 9:07am

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

In this edition:

Noodle wheat segregation celebrates 30 years of market success

Two new oat variety options for 2020

Plan to manage your ground cover now to reduce erosion risk

Noodle wheat segregation celebrates 30 years of market success

group of people at a corporate event
Japanese Flour Millers Association delegation leader Takeshi Koizumi (left), WA Governor General Kim Beazley, Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan, inaugural WANGA chairman John Hawkins, wheat grower Peter Dean, retired department cereal chemist Dr Graham Crosbie and former WANGA chairman John Carstairs reminisce at the recent noodle wheat segregation 30th anniversary celebrations.

A celebration was held recently to pay tribute to the pioneers of Australia’s first speciality wheat market, as the WA grains industry and Japanese dignitaries gathered to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Australian Noodle Wheat (ANW) segregation in Perth.

Local growers supply nearly all the wheat to the ANW segregation, about 850,000 tonnes per annum. About 60 per cent is exported to Japan to be made into white, salted udon noodles – worth more than $250 million annually to the State economy.

WA remains the sole ANW supplier to the Japanese market, while the other 30 per cent of the segregation is exported to South Korea.

The segregation – which remains a rare phenomenon in the industry, where most wheat is exported as a bulk commodity – can command a market premium of $20-100 per tonne, depending on market conditions.

Department origins

This important grains market had its origins with the former Department of Agriculture in the early 1970s, when wheat researcher Jack Toms visited Japan and identified that the WA wheat variety, Gamenya, had suitable noodle wheat characteristics.

Department cereal chemist Graham Crosbie later recognised that a separate wheat pool would be needed to satisfy the strict Japanese quality requirements for udon noodles.

Dr Crosbie called on the then Australian Wheat Board to create a segregation – which was quite controversial at the time – and the first pooling was introduced for the 1989/90 season, with permanent pooling agreed to three years later for the varieties Gamenya and Eradu.

The move was supported by a group of interested farmers, who formed the WA Noodle Wheat Growers Association (WANGA), led by John Hawkins and later John Carstairs, to educate and encourage local production.

Satisfying customer requirements

Despite significant changes in the grains industry since then, the State Government continues to support this enduring trade relationship.

The Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre (AEGIC), an initiative of the State Government and the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), works closely with Japanese noodle wheat customers and government officials to ensure satisfactory supplies and blends.

Since 1989, 13 highly trained Japanese noodle specialists have visited Australia to help assess unreleased wheat varieties that have been purpose-bred for Japanese udon noodles, as part of a sensory panel run by AEGIC in collaboration with the Japan Flour Millers Association.

This panel tests noodle samples made from WA wheat for colour, texture and the highly coveted springy ‘mochi mochi’ mouth sensation that characterises udon noodles.

group of people at a corporate event
InterGrain’s Dr Daniel Mullan (left), AEGIC’s Dr Larisa Cato, DPIRD Managing Director, Research and Industry Innovation Dr Mark Sweetingham, AEGIC CEO Richard Simonaitis and InterGrain CEO Tresslyn Walmsley catch up at the noodle wheat segregation 30th anniversary celebrations in Perth recently.

Variety development

Noodle wheat breeding has evolved over the years, with the WA-based cereal breeder - InterGrain, producing four improved varieties Supreme, Zen, Ninja and Kinsei.

InterGrain, also co-owned by the State Government and the GRDC, has an ongoing program to examine germplasm with increased diversity to develop new, enhanced noodle wheat varieties.

ANW is estimated to account for about 14 per cent of 2019-20 wheat plantings, down on 2018 due to seasonal conditions, with most sown in the Geraldton, Kwinana and Albany zones to Zen, Ninja and Calingiri.

WA grains investment and advancement

WA is the nation’s biggest wheat producer, exporting 6.5 million tonnes in 2018 worth $2.2 billion to the State economy.

DPIRD is committed to supporting the WA grains industry to grow and thrive, through a program of investments in crop agronomy, genetic improvement, soil management, crop protection and farming systems research.

The department works closely with the Grower Group Alliance, which received $4.38 million in July from the State Government to assist its 44 group members to identify and solve real world problems that lead to significant farm business and industry innovations.

Our staff are about to harvest a program more than 70,000 research plots in over 350 field trials across the grainbelt, all to help advance grains production in WA.

Many of these trials have co-investment from the WA Government’s long-time funding partner, the GRDC.

These are exciting times for the WA grains industry, which is embracing new technology, new farming systems and business models to lift production and profitability.

As always, the department is working side-by-side with growers and industry – with our expert staff, world-class research facilities and collaborations – to drive sustainable growth and opportunity.

For more information email Nicole Kerr, General Manager – Strategy & Communications, AEGIC, Perth.

Two new oat variety options for 2020

two women standing in an oat crop
PIRSA-SARDI principal plant breeder Dr Pamela Zwer (left) and DPIRD oat research officer Georgie Troup stand in a field of Koorabup oats during the variety’s launch at the WA Oat Field Walk on a chilly day at Highbury in September.

Western Australian grain growers will have two new oat variety options to consider for next year’s cropping program.

The hay variety - Koorabup and the milling oat variety - Bilby were officially launched at separate events last month, providing growers with new crop choices with improved disease resistance and quality.

Both varieties were developed under the National Oat Breeding Program, led by Primary Industries and Regions SA through its South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) with support from the WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD).

DPIRD played a key role establishing field trials from Rylington Park to Wongan Hills to test the genetic material through the evaluation stages.

Koorabup oaten hay variety

Koorabup, the traditional name for the Denmark River, is a cross of two WA advanced breeding lines.

The variety was initially crossed in 2005 from two lines by SARDI principal plant breeder Pamela Zwer, whose work on Koorabup was funded by AgriFutures Export Fodder Program.

The oaten hay variety’s distinguishing feature is good resistance to the fungal disease septoria (rated as moderately resistant to moderately susceptible), which occurs throughout the cereal growing areas of WA and can cause crop losses of up to 50 per cent.  It also has good rust and bacterial blight resistance.

The mid-tall hay variety with mid-season maturity has a hay yield similar to Carrolup and produces a distinctive blueish-green crop, desired by the oaten hay trade, as well as thin stems.

WA growers had a look at the variety at the recent WA Oat Research Field Walk at Highbury.  Seed is now being bulked up and will be available after harvest via Australian Exporters Company (AEXCO), the National Oat Breeding program’s commercial partner for hay varieties.

Bilby milling oat variety

The new milling oat variety, Bilby, was officially launched at the Royal Adelaide Show in early September.

Bilby is characterised by a high beta-glucan content, the nutritional trait which has been shown to reduce blood cholesterol.

The variety, which has a high groat percentage and milling yield, has been approved for milling in WA by the Grains Industry Association of WA’s Oat Council.

Bilby is suited to most soil types in WA in rainfall areas above 400 millimetres. The dwarf, early-mid season variety also has excellent grain yield, almost as good as Williams and Bannister.

It is moderately susceptible to stem rust, resistant to leaf rust, moderately susceptible to susceptible to barley yellow dwarf, moderately susceptible to bacterial blight, moderately susceptible to susceptible to septoria and susceptible to cereal cyst nematode.

Bilby will be available via local Heritage Broadacre agents or directly via Heritage Seeds.

These two new varieties will complement the existing variety options, supporting growers to meet export quality requirements. 

The National Oat Breeding program is a partnership between Primary Industries and Regions South Australia - SARDI and DPIRD. Development of milling oats has Grains Research and Development Corporation investment. Development of hay oat varieties is funded by AgriFutures Export Fodder Program and AEXCO.

For more information about growing oats in WA visit the Oats: essentials page or contact Georgie Troup, research officer, Northam,  on +61 (0)8 9690 2215.  

Plan to manage your ground cover now to reduce erosion risk

sand or dust blowing in a paddock with little or no stubble
Some paddocks are already blowing as a result of the poor season

Many grainbelt properties have experienced poor crop and pasture growth this year, which could bring about an increased chance of overgrazing and, therefore, increased risk of wind and water erosion. 

Decisions are best made early in the season about managing erosion through the dry period. Producers considering grazing failed crops will be reviewing the amount of feed likely to be on offer, the stock numbers to be carried and whether there will be sufficient plant cover to protect the soil from erosion.

Wind erosion occurs when three conditions are met.

  1. Insufficient ground covers (<50% of the surface covered by non-erodible elements - stubble, pasture residues, gravel or very coarse sand).
  2. Loose, dry soil at the surface.
  3. Wind strong enough to initiate sand movement. The wind velocity that causes sand movement is about 28 km/h.

When cover is reduced below 50 per cent, loosened soil starts to move and the blowing sand lifts the dust, which is made up of clay, organic material and nutrients, transporting the dust out of the paddock. The majority of soil nutrients are stored in the top few centimetres of soil. Research indicates that an 8mm loss of top soil in pastures can result in a 16 per cent reduction of the following crop yield.

Now is a good time to think about whether paddocks are likely to be exposed to strong winds over the drier months, and to check paddocks to assess if the soil is dry, loose or disturbed, and if they have enough cover. Consult DPIRD’s diagnosing wind erosion risk page for tips on how to assess your paddocks.

Stable ground covers are the major wind control mechanism 

The level of cover to minimise wind erosion is about 50 per cent of the surface covered by non-moveable residues (i.e. anchored stubble). For cereal stubbles this is about 750 kg/ha of straw and for lupins and canola about 1500kg/ha of straw. This is from crops yielding about 500 kg/ha for cereal, 650 kg/ha for lupins and 800 kg/ha of canola. The corresponding critical level for pastures is about 500 kg/ha of dry residues.  The images below can provide an idea of what a good cover looks like on a paddock.

An oblique view of 1400 kg/ha of cereal stubble, with about 10 % cent standing and 80% prostrate.  More than enough to minimise erosion.
An oblique view of 1400 kg/ha of cereal stubble, more than enough to minimise erosion.
A vertical view of 1400 kg/ha of standing cereal stubble.  About 50% of the white sandy surface is visible.  More than enough to minimise erosion
The 0.25 quadrat in this vertical photo represents 1400kg/ha of stubble.
An oblique view of 1000 kg/ha of standing and prostrate cereal stubble covering about 40% of the ground.
An oblique view of a trial plot representing 1000 kg/ha of cereal stubble, enough to resist wind erosion. This amount of stubble represents about 40% ground cover.
A vertical view of 1000 kg/ha of standing cereal stubble. About 60% of the white sandy surface is visible.
The vertical view of a quadrat represents 1000kg/ha of stubble or about 40% ground cover
An oblique view of cereal stubble covering about 20% of the ground.  Not enough to resist erosion
This paddock is highly prone to wind erosion as it contains only 400kg/ha of cereal stubble, not enough to resist erosion.
A vertical view of cereal stubble covering about 20% of the ground.  Not enough to resist erosion
The area in this quadrat shows the lack of cereal stubble to resist wind erosion.

Strategies to manage ground cover

Managing stubbles begins at harvest. By adjusting harvest settings appropriately, stubble levels can be maximised and spilt grain minimised. The Harvesting short patchy crops page has more information on this topic. By reducing the spilt grain at harvest, the paddock has little feed value. For paddocks that have been cropped this year and are not grazed, stubble management options for seeding in the coming season need to be considered at harvest. If stubbles are burnt to manage weed seeds, harvester settings will need to be set-up to enable the burning of windrows only rather than the whole paddock. Burning whole paddocks leaves the soil surface vulnerable to blowing from strong autumn pre-frontal winds.

If there is likely to be insufficient cover either for livestock or erosion control, there are a number of options to reduce grazing pressure and erosion risk. These options may include grazing vulnerable paddocks for the least time possible, minimising vehicle movement to reduce soil disturbance, use of feedlots or stable refuge areas, agistment, or selling excess stock. Grazing native vegetation is discouraged for a number of reasons including potential breach of clearing regulations.

More detailed information can be obtained from the dry seasonal conditions article and the Managing wind erosion page. Alternatively you can contact Paul Findlater, senior research officer, Geraldton, on +61 (0)8 99568 535 or Justin Laycock, research officer, South Perth, on +61 (0)8 93683 832.