Management and environment dictate tillering in grain sorghum, in combination with genetics.

Loretta Serafin1, Mark Hellyer1, Andrew Bishop1 and Annie Warren1

1 NSW Department of Primary Industries, 4 Marsden Park Road, Calala, NSW 2340., 


Tillering in grain sorghum can be either an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on the growing environment and the plant population. The challenge is to match the genetics and management to the site and expected environmental conditions. Commercial hybrids are marketed with information on the level of tillering likely to be expressed.

Three experiments were conducted in 2017-18 at Gurley, Mallawa and Breeza, in Northern NSW under rain-fed conditions, to compare the impact of plant density on tillering in four grain sorghum hybrids.

Hybrids were selected based on their levels of tillering from low to high.  The industry standard MR Buster was compared to Agitator, Brazen and Archer.

At Gurley and Breeza, four plant densities, 30, 60, 90 and 120,000 plants/ha were targeted. At Mallawa the 120,000 treatment was replaced with 45,000 plants/ha. The row spacing was 100cm at Breeza and Gurley and 150cm at Mallawa.

Total tiller number showed a negative correlation with increasing plant density. Differences in tillering were detected between hybrids, but their tiller level was not consistent with expectations. Archer produced the lowest number of tillers in all three experiments, and Agitator the highest. Differences (in tillering) between the hybrids were also smaller than anticipated. The difference in tillering was greatest at the lowest plant densities (1.5 tillers per plant, between hybrids) and these differences became smaller as plant density increased. There was no impact of plant density on yield at Gurley and Mallawa, or on harvest index across all sites. At Breeza; the mildest growing environment; Archer produced the highest grain yield.


Mitigating the effects of high temperature on leaf net photosynthetic rate and grain yield by spraying two reagents

Min Li, Kaixia Ding, Qianfei Wei, Xiaohan Yin, Yulei Zhu, Jincai Li, Youhong Song*

Anhui Agricultural University, School of Agronomy, Anhui province, Hefei, 233036. Corresponding email:


High temperature in the grain-filling stage of winter wheat is one of the important meteorological disasters that has a great influence on growth characteristics and grain yield. The purpose of this study was to mitigate the effects of high temperature on wheat production by selecting useful chemical reagents and suitable spraying time. In 2017-18, wheat varieties i.e. Huaimai 33 and Annong 0711 were used to study the alleviating effects of spraying two reagents in different time periods (prior to, during and post high temperature treatment, HTT) in grain-filling stage. The Pn, SPAD, 1000-grain weight and yield of wheat under high temperature could be improved by spraying Epibrassinolide (BR) and KH2PO4, and spraying KH2PO4 had the better effect compared to BR in alleviating the harm caused by high temperature. The time to spray prior to HTT, or post has better effects compared to spray during HTT.

Quinoa in the Riverina

David Troldahl1, Richard Snowball2, Harmohinder Dhammu3 and Mario D’Antuono2

1 NSW Department of Primary Industries, Yanco Agricultural Institute, Yanco, NSW 2703.,

WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, 75 York Rd, 2 South Perth and 3Northam, WA 6401.


Quinoa can potentially be grown in Australia as a summer or winter crop and as a complementary crop within existing cropping programs depending on soil type, rainfall and environment. A national project “Quinoa as a new crop in Australia” co-funded by the AgriFutures and state Departments of Primary Industry (DPI) and Agriculture (DA) explored this potential at experimental sites in South Australia (Naracoorte), Northern Territory (Katherine and Alice Springs), Western Australia (Cunderdin, Eradu, Esperance, Geraldton, Katanning and Kununurra) and New South Wales (Leeton Field Station). The paper reports on the experiments at Leeton Field Station in the Riverina region of NSW .

Variety evaluation experiments were conducted in two years to determine a range of agronomic recommendations for growing quinoa in the Riverina. Preliminary research highlighted a sowing window between December and March, a sowing density of around 7kg/ha and identified key varieties that matched local industry needs.

A systems agronomy for sorghum in the Northern Grains Region

Daniel Rodriguez and Peter de Voil

The University of Queensland, Centre for Crop Sciences, Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation, Gatton Campus, Gatton, Queensland, 4343,,  


Over the last fifty years increases in grain yields have been the result of improvements from breeding,  from agronomy and the cropping system, and from their interactions. There is also no doubt that the same drivers will be responsible for future yield gains. This calls for R&D efforts to be directed towards identifying and communicating optimum combinations of agronomic management (M) and cultivars (G), or crop designs (GxM), that make best use of available resources and expected seasonal conditions i.e. the environment (E). Our present understanding of crop stress physiology indicates that in hindsight, those optimum crop designs should be known, while the main problem is to predict relevant attributes of the environment (E), at the time of sowing, so that optimum GxM combinations could be informed. Here we tested our capacity to inform that “hindsight”, by linking a crop model (APSIM-Sorghum) with outputs from two seasonal climate forecasting systems to answer “What is the value of informing optimum crop designs?” This was achieved by using the APSIM-Sorghum model and outputs from two seasonal climate forecasting systems (i.e. POAMA-2 and ACCESS-S1), to inform farmers’ decisions at different time scales, ranging from weeks to a few months in sorghum cropping. Results showed that that by linking APSIM-Sorghum and POAMA-2 to inform optimum crop designs at sowing could increase average sorghum profits by up to 143 AU$ ha-1 year-1; and that that by linking APSIM-Sorghum and ACCESS-S1 could be used to inform the likelihood of favorable soil temperatures over the following few weeks crucial to achieve uniform crop stands in winter sown sorghum.

Importance of different plant traits for dual-purpose cereal dry matter production and grain recovery in southern NSW

Mehrshad Barary1, Peter Matthews2

1NSW Department of Primary Industries, Wagga Wagga, NSW, 2650,

2NSW Department of Primary Industries, Orange, NSW, 2800


With growers` increased focus on dual-purpose (DP) cereal varieties and the development of new DP varieties, a set of experiments investigating the grazing and grain recovery of DP cereals were run at Wagga Wagga in 2016 and 2017. The experiments were designed in a randomised complete block with one or two factors. With two factors e.g. variety and sowing time, the experiments were arranged in split-plot or factorial (depending on the second factor). Sixty three different wheat, barley and triticale genotypes were tested over the two years, with a core subset of 24 genotypes studied in detail. Various measurements and plant traits such as plant population, plant growth stage, dry matter production, morphological attributes, grain yield and quality were recorded. The study found that there were differences between both crop type and genotypes and how they accumulated dry matter and then recovered from grazing to produce grain. The key variables and traits were plant population, tillers number and leaf dry weight for dry matter production before anthesis and total dry matter, fertile tiller number and stem dry weight at anthesis for grain yield.

Increasing grain protein with delayed applications of fertiliser nitrogen

Jeremy Curry1, Blakely Paynter2, Stacey Hansch2, Andrew van Burgel3

1 Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Melijinup Road, Esperance, WA, 6450

2 Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, 75 York Road, Northam, WA, 6401

3 Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, 444 Albany Hwy, Albany, WA, 6330


Low grain protein can cause downgrading of barley from Malt1 (GIWA Malt1 protein window is 9.5-12.8%). With increasing productivity and decreasing nitrogen (N) supply available from the soil (primarily due to lack of legumes in the crop rotation), growers need to increase their fertiliser N applications to produce adequate protein levels. In addition to increasing N rate, growers can improve their fertiliser effectiveness by changing the timing of N application. In this study, shifting N from seeding and mid-tillering to the stem elongation period consistently increased grain protein, although was often associated with increased screenings and for some treatments reduced grain yield. Most delayed N strategies (except N timings 2 and 4) provided a protein increase of 0.5-1.0% relative to the strategy of ⅓ N at seeding, mid tillering and stem elongation (N timing 1 – current practice control) in at least three of the four sites. Only two delayed N strategies, N timing 2 and 3, did not affect grain yield at any site. Compared to N timing 1 moving the ⅓ N from mid-tillering to stem elongation (N timing 2) increased grain protein at only two sites whereas applying the bulk of the N at stem elongation (N timing 3) increased grain protein at all four sites. Both strategies, however, increased screenings (at two and three sites respectively), though did not negatively impact on hectolitre weight or grain brightness. The grain protein increase of the other delayed N strategies may often have been larger than N timings 2 and 3 but came at a risk of higher screenings, lower hectolitre weight or lower grain yield (site specific). The best of the other strategies evaluated was N timing 10 (⅓ N at seeding, stem elongation and flag leaf emergence), which increased protein at three sites, had no impact on screenings or hectolitre weight at any site, although did reduce yield and brightness at one site.

Herbicide residues from summer spraying: Are they an issue for crop growth?

Courtney Peirce1, Kenton Porker1 and Michael Moodie2

1 Agronomy SARDI, Gate 1, Building 4c, Waite Road, Urrbrae, South Australia, 5064,, 
2Moodie Agronomy


Despite the acknowledged benefit of summer spraying of weeds to conserve soil moisture, the subsequent presence of herbicide residues has led to growers and advisors questioning whether these residues may be affecting biomass and early vigour of the following crop. This is particularly of concern in low rainfall regions with sandy soils where rainfall is sporadic and microbial activity low. Through a combination of field and glasshouse experiments across the Mallee region of South Australia and Victoria,  we investigated the impact of summer spraying of glyphosate, 2-4, D amine or a mixture of both on early biomass, vigour and yield of four crop species wheat, barley, lentils, and lupins. The herbicide applied over the summer period established high concentrations of the active ingredient in soil when measured prior to sowing. The herbicide residues did not negatively affect the early biomass, vigour, or yield of cereal crops wheat or barley at any of the three 2018 field sites despite the autumn period being among the driest on record. Only negative biomass and yield responses were measured for 2,4-D herbicide treatments when label plant back recommendations were not adhered to with the lightest textured soil more prone to crop damage. These results suggest that current summer spraying practices of glyphosate and 2,4-D amine as recommended by label rates are unlikely to cause any significant crop damage in wheat, barley, lentils and lupins.

Mungbean (Vigna radiata (L.) R. Wilczek) varietal evaluation for northwest Cambodian lowland rice systems

Harry E.G. Campbell-Ross1, Sophea Yous2, Robert J. Martin1 and Daniel K.Y. Tan1

1The University of Sydney, Sydney Institute of Agriculture, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Science, Sydney, NSW, Australia,
2The University of Battambang, Battambang Province, Cambodia


Small-scale agriculture is the economic, social and cultural bedrock of Cambodian rural communities. Crop diversification is not widespread in these traditionally rice-producing smallholder farms. Rice monoculture has led to a decline in farm productivity and farming household income. Mungbean is emerging as a high-value opportunity for crop diversification in smallholder farms in north-west Cambodia praised for its favourable agronomic qualities. However, its expansion is being constrained by the low quality of varieties available to farmers. This study aims to evaluate the locally available varieties with others from Cambodia and the region by comparing the varieties’ agronomic and economic characteristics. The varieties from Cambodia, CMB-3 and CARDI-Chey, had superior agronomic and quality characteristics compared with the varieties available to farmers. This was reflected in the price estimate and income of both varieties which had the highest gross margins. Hence, the varieties currently available to farmers are unsuitable for continued cultivation in the modern mungbean production environment.

When to irrigate? Testing the technologies available to estimate soil water in cotton systems

Harry Gaynor1, Patrick Filippi1, Rose Brodrick2, Daniel K.Y. Tan1

1 The University of Sydney, Sydney Institute of Agriculture, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Science, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia,
2 CSIRO Agriculture and Food, Black Mountain, Canberra, ACT 2601.Tel: 61 2 8627 1052, Email:


Australian cotton irrigators are continuously meeting challenges of water scarcity with technological innovation to improve their water resource management. A popular optimisation technique is to time irrigation applications based on a soil water content refill point. Point-source soil water measurements can give a current soil water status (e.g. using a neutron moisture meter (NMM)), but do not provide any predictive capacity to assist in planning future irrigations. We compared the accuracy of two methodologies to calculate soil water content with predictive capability: HydroLOGIC software (crop model) and IrriSAT software (Kc approach derived from NDVI satellite images), using calibrated NMM measurements as a standard.  To enable a fair comparison of the two technologies in HydroLOGIC, the soil water was not corrected by inputting soil water measurements, with just the crop parameters and irrigation dates entered up until the run date. IrriSAT had slightly higher correlation (r = 0.82) with NMM readings compared with HydroLOGIC (r = 0.75) when averaged across the measurement period. However, the accuracy varied significantly during different periods which could significantly impact on irrigation timing. During early to peak flowering IrriSAT overestimated NMM deficits by 20-30 mm, which if relied on would result in irrigating much earlier than required whereas HydroLOGIC run without any soil water inputs underestimated crop water use after cut-out. The data suggested measured soil water through instruments such as NMMs can be used in a combined approach with predictive software to monitor soil moisture and enable irrigators to predict more accurately the timing of future irrigations.

Effect of sowing time, sowing rate and soil water regime on yield, water use efficiency and soil water dynamics of faba bean (Vicia faba L.)

Ketema Zeleke

School of Agricultural & Wine Sciences, Charles Sturt University, Boorooma Street, Wagga Wagga, NSW 2650

Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, Boorooma Street, Wagga Wagga, NSW 2650,


Crop yield and water use efficiency are determined by its genotype, environment, GxE and agronomic management. The performance of faba bean (cv. Samira) under different sowing time, sowing rate and soil moisture conditions was evaluated. Sowing time and soil moisture regimes were found to have significant effects on grain yield, water use efficiency and grain quality. Yield penalty associated with delayed sowing was not significant when the crop was irrigated in spring; irrigation water use efficiency was higher for late sown than for early sown faba bean. Late sown faba bean left higher amount of residual moisture in the soil than the early sown faba bean. Faba bean yield and water use efficiency could be improved by timely sowing and/or supplemental irrigation.


The Australian Society of Agronomy is the professional body for agronomists in Australia. It has approximately 500 active members drawn from government, universities, research organisations and the private sector.

Photo Credits

David Marland Photography Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, Charles Sturt University

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