There has been no agronomic research in Western Australia into the production of high quality oats since the mid 1980's. Over the last five years Agriculture Western Australia has released five new milling grade oat varieties. To complement these varieties, and varieties that will be released in the near future, the current research project was instigated and funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).
Western Australia's geographical position is ideal suited to take advantage of the Asian market and supply good quality, clean grain. This position was recognised by the Quaker Oats Australia Company in the decision to establish an oat mill in Western Australia. After only a few years Quaker Oats are processing approximately 40,000 of the 170,000 tonnes of milling oats produced in Western Australia and are aiming to process 100,000 tonnes by the year 2000.
This investment into Western Australia bodes well for the oat producers of this state. As the Quaker Oats demand for high quality milling grade oats increases, this will lead to an over-all improvement in the quality of oats produced in Western Australia. The current research project aims to assist the pace at which this improvement occurs through agronomic research and extension to the oat producers in Western Australia.
Research activities in 1997 consisted of nitrogen rate, seed rate and time of sowing trials in the 450-750 mm rainfall zones of Western Australia. The time of sowing trials consisted of a number of released varieties as well as advanced breeding lines that are likely to be released in the near future.
Results of grain quality analyses from 1997 trials are still being processed but yield and seed size results illustrate that appropriate sowing time and early weed control are critical for adequate yields to be obtained. One trial showed that a delay of four weeks resulted in 0.3t/ha reduction in yield, which equates to $34.5/ha in lost revenue (at $115/t). Another trial showed that a 30 percent reduction in weed biomass resulted in an increase in yield of approximately 30 percent.
Results from the 1997 seeding rate trials indicate that recommended seeding rates for the newer varieties may need to be amended. The current recommended seeding rate is 70-80 kg/ha but the optimum seed rates for the new variety tested was around 100 kg/ha. This result will be tested again in seeding rate trials in 1998 with another two new varieties to establish whether this is a characteristic common to the newer varieties or whether other factors are involved.
The 1997 season was not a good one for cereals in the southern grain growing areas of Western Australia due to the lack of rains after flowering. Some of the trials from 1997 will be repeated in 1998 to assess whether trends observed in 1997 were caused by the season or were a result of the agronomic treatments imposed. Trials that are being conducted in the 1998 season are more extensive. While nitrogen rate, seed rate and time of sowing trials are being repeated, other nutritional and agronomic trials are to be sown and research activities will be distributed over a larger area of the grain growing areas of Western Australia.
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