THE invitation to travel to Victoria to visit canola breeding facilities and learn about hybrid seed production was too good of an opportunity to pass up for a group of growers from southern Western Australia.
The aim of the trip was to demystify the breeding and production of hybrid canola by being shown the process from start to finish to get a better idea of the body of work that is required to get canola seed into the bag and onto the farm.
The group of 14 growers were hosted by Elders Cranbrook branch manager Daniel Barbour and agronomist Laura Archer who were both pleased to offer the opportunity to their clients to learn about the complexities of hybrid canola production.
Over the course of three days, the group met with local seed companies including BASF and Nuseed to gain a greater understanding of breeding, production and supply.
They also visited Grains Innovation Park to meet with Dr Steve Marcroft Grains Pathology, a leading researcher into canola fungal diseases including blackleg resistance.
This was followed with a tour of a number of trial sites managed by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) at Tim Rethus and Ryan Milgate's properties.
"It is important for growers to be exposed to all of the steps of seed production prior to the seed reaching them onfarm," Ms Archer said.
"It is hoped that growers can have a better understanding of where their seed comes from, why they pay the price they pay for seed and some explanations as to why sometimes seed supply and delivery can be disrupted."
Ms Archer also discussed the benefits for the growers to be able to discuss topical issues relevant to their own region.
"Blackleg is a topical canola agronomy issue currently for our farmers in the Great Southern of WA, so an important topic to discuss and understand what research is being done to prevent the disease," she said.
Cranbrook grower Brendan Watterson said it was great to hear first-hand about what it takes to bring a new variety to market.
"Most farmers understand the production cycle for sheep, cattle, wool and grain, however hybrid canola seed is a little more involved," Mr Watterson said.
"The chance to understand why this is and how seed gets from the laboratory to the bag was invaluable.
"We were also able to talk face to face with seed suppliers and research groups to ask questions and provide direct feedback."
Hybrid canola allows the plant breeder to have the best of both worlds with characteristics from two different parents in one seed.
This gives graingrowers a seed that will have improved vigour, disease resistance and yield, as well as allowing new traits, such as herbicide tolerance, to be introduced for the benefit of growers.
Mt Barker grower Ashley Hudson gained a new appreciation for hybrid canola breeding.
"Seeing the lengthy work that goes into breeding canola in person was an eye-opener for me," Mr Hudson said.
"I now have a better understanding of why varieties take eight years from development to commercialisation as now I know the stages the breeding has to go through.
"Nuseed explained the F2 seed retention issue very well which gave a better insight into the reasons they are strongly discouraging growers to retain seed," he said.
Tambellup grower Josh Patterson reflected on the importance of paddock rotations after being able to visit local grower properties as part of the tour.
"The local grower visits were great to get insight into their business, the challenges they face and how they overcome them," Mr Paterson said.
"They invest more into improving their soil health through legumes in their rotations and onfarm grain storage with grain destined to local processors.
"It was food for thought about how we could do things better on my farm."
Mr Barbour said the opportunity for growers to talk to the canola breeders in person was an important step in bridging the gap.
"For our WA growers, having the ability to provide direct feedback straight to the canola breeders as to what they are looking for in canola varieties was a fantastic opportunity which our growers rarely have," Mr Barbour said.
"Sharing concerns and frustrations face to face was invaluable for our clients."