Long-term research aims to increase grain yields

Researchers at the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) are participating in a long-term research project to increase the yield of grains in high rainfall zones such as Tasmania.

TIA Research Fellows, Dr Angela Merry and Associate Professor Tina Acuña, are leading the Tasmanian component of this southern Australian research project ‘Optimising the yield and economic potential of high-input cropping systems in the high-rainfall zone’. The project is co-funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and led by Dr Penny Riffkin from the Victorian Department of Primary Industries.

Dr Merry is conducting field experiments at TIA’s Research Facility at Cressy with a focus on improving the yield performance of wheat grown in Tasmanian conditions. She is specifically looking at how a plant’s leaf architecture contributes to yield.

“Last year we conducted field experiments involving wheat lines with differing levels of leaf erectness to assess how the germplasm behaves in our environment. The aim was to assess whether lines with more erect leaves would perform better in Tasmanian conditions than varieties with floppier leaves (planophile lines),” Dr Merry said.

“We anticipated that lines with more erect leaves would intercept more solar radiation which would translate into increased grain yield. We are only in the early stages of research, but preliminary findings from the Tasmanian experiments have gone against this assumption.

“Based on the 2016 experiments, we actually found that plants with floppier leaves produced a higher yield than plants with a more erect leaf. This contrasted with mainland sites where the opposite trend was observed. Our results indicate there is a potential interaction between sites and lines for leaf type.”

Dr Merry will present the preliminary findings of this research at the 18th Australian Agronomy Conference at Ballarat later this year.

“This research is an example of the important work that goes on behind the scenes to identify long-term solutions to increase the productivity and profitability of agriculture in Australia,” Dr Merry said.

“The work that we’re doing will help to identify physiological traits that are required for a high yielding wheat variety suited to high rainfall areas.

“It means that down the track growers could have access to new wheat cultivars with physiological traits specifically suited to the long growing season experienced in areas such as Tasmania, helping them to achieve yield increases.”

The 2016 field experiment involved five different lines of wheat with erect leaves and five different lines of wheat with floppy leaves, sown at densities of 100, 200 and 300 plants per square metre. This field experiment is being repeated this year and will be complimented by an evaluation looking at additional lines, including some that are currently commercially available.

Dr Merry said that further experiments across different sites and seasons would be required to develop a good understanding of the potential for leaf architecture to contribute to yield in high rainfall zones. The project is scheduled to run until 2018.

TIA is a joint venture between the University of Tasmania and the Tasmanian Government. Its mission is to conduct solution-orientated research, development and engagement to support a productive, competitive and sustainable agriculture industry, with direct impact for Tasmania.

For more information contact Angela.Merry@utas.edu.au

This article also appeared in Tasmanian Country on 7 July 2017.

Published on: 07 Jul 2017 10:50am