Research by the Department of Agriculture and Food has demonstrated that many varieties of wheat can establish satisfactorily when sown at depth, providing farmers with the knowledge and confidence to deep sow wheat without compromising crop establishment and performance.
Department senior research officer Bob French said the research, co-funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation, aimed to identify differences between commonly-grown wheat varieties in their ability to emerge from very deep sowing.
"Deep sowing was investigated as a cropping option to address the imperative to sow crops early and the increasing unreliability of early season rains in agricultural areas of Western Australia," Dr French said.
"On soils with receding moisture, and in periods of limited water availability, very deep sowing enables farmers to place seed on moist soil where it can germinate without the need for follow-up rain.
"However, there was evidence to suggest the practice could reduce crop establishment, especially in varieties with short coleoptiles."
Dr French said the department's three replicated trials at Dalwallinu, Merredin and Mullewa quantified the effects of deep sowing on early crop vigour and demonstrated that wheat varieties could establish well when sown as deep as 100mm, although establishment would be reduced.
"Wheat varieties differed in their sensitivity to deep sowing, with Estoc and Magenta establishing better than other varieties," Dr French said.
"Variety ranking was not consistent across the sites, but Mace and Corack were among the most sensitive to deep sowing at all three sites. Cobra was the least sensitive to deep sowing at Merredin and Mullewa, but the most sensitive at Dalwallinu.
"Sensitivity to deep sowing can be managed by increasing seeding rate. Although Mace was one of the more sensitive varieties to deep sowing, it achieved respectable densities at Merredin and Mullewa because it had very good establishment when sown at normal depth.
"The success of establishment from deep sowing also varied across environments with overall establishment poorer on a loamy soil at Mullewa than a sand at Dalwallinu or a clay loam at Merredin, but the percentage reduction due to deep sowing was similar at each site."
The research supports the success of farm businesses to address current and future challenges.
The research findings will be presented in-depth at the 2014 Crop Updates.
Media contact: Jodie Thomson/Lisa Bertram, media liaison +61 (0)8 9368 3937