Finding the best match

By Country News

Sorghum growers in Queensland and NSW can boost sorghum yields by up to 60 per cent by better understanding how to match hybrid selection and agronomic management to their local growing conditions and seasonal outlooks.

Extensive trial work conducted by the Queensland Alliance for Food Innovation and NSW DPI between July 2014 and June 2017 found up to a six-fold increase in water-use efficiency when the best combination of hybrid and management was used.

The trial work is part of a Grains Research and Development Corporation investment into tactical sorghum agronomy in the northern grains region and has amassed results from more than 1960 individual plots on research stations and farms across Queensland and NSW.

One of the project leaders, QAAFI associate professor Daniel Rodriguez, said the research findings would help growers understand how to best manage commercially available hybrids to maximise yield and water-use efficiency across the diverse northern growing environments.

‘‘If we understand which hybrid and management combinations are top performers at any particular level of water availability, and why, growers can then use that information to adapt the agronomy and select hybrids that maximise yields and profits in likely dry, average and good seasons,’’ Dr Rodriguez said.

The trial work assessed a range of commercially available hybrids, plant densities and row spacings in both low (below median yielding sites) and high (above median yielding sites) yielding environments.

The hybrids were evaluated for their performance in comparison to the widely grown MR Buster variety.

Dr Rodriguez said most hybrids yielded more than MR Buster in both low and high yielding sites.

‘‘High yielding hybrids showing dynamic stability are better suited for irrigation or high yielding sites and wetter seasons, although lodging could become an issue in those sites,’’ Dr Rodriguez said.

‘‘On the other hand, if growers select more stable hybrids they might trade some yield in the better sites and seasons but pick up more consistent yield in the poorer sites and seasons.’’

Results of the trial found that:

■Sorghum yields varied between almost zero to more than 7tonne/ha across environments.

■For any given yield environment the yield difference between the highest and lowest yield obtained from the best and worst combination of hybrid and management was up to 60 per cent.

■The yield differences between the best and worst combination of hybrid and management translated into a six-fold change in water use efficiency.