THERE is myriad working into best practice herbicide application and most effective methods of putting out fertiliser, but one of the biggest drivers of yield in cereal crops remains getting crops to flower at the right time.
Speaking at a Grains Research and Development Corporation update La Trobe University researcher James Hunt said getting more crop to its optimal flowering date would boost the national crop.
"Optimising flowering time of wheat and barley varieties is one of the most cost effective ways of maximising yield," Dr Hunt said.
"Flowering time is a critical determinant of grain yield and when crops flower in the optimum time yields are maximised by minimising heat and frost risk," he said.
However, while that seems deceptively easy, assessing the range of varieties available to Australian growers and providing growers with advice as to the optimum time to plant is not.
This is where the National Phenology Initiative (NPI) kicks in.
Using the Agricultural Production Systems Simulator (APSIM) Next Gen system combined with data generated from the NPI researchers will be to more accurately predict variety phenology, which then means they can provide better advice regarding optimum sowing dates.
Dr Hunt said work was progressing well and the improved model would be available to growers and advisors next year.
He said a key part of the project was provided a uniform definition of terms.
"We talk variously about 'fast maturing', 'early maturing' and 'short maturity' in different states, but there is no consistency.
"The terms are also relatively subjective in that there is no hard and fast rules about what constitutes a short season variety."
The NPI's task, however, is made more difficult by Australia's variable climate, with varieties performing differently in different areas.
To combat this trials were taken at a number of different sites across the country and ranked on 'degree days' to heading.
Phenology groups from 'very quick' to 'very slow' were created.
A full list of varieties and their phenologies, from Biere barley, the shortest season, to Sunlamb, the slowest spring wheat, was compiled, which farmers and advisors can use to compare flowering dates.
Along with the flowering date work, the NPI also has worked on a new scale of crop development, designed to replace the Zadoks scale developed in the 1970s.
"Some of the crop stages within the Zadoks system can be ambigious which makes management decisions more difficult," Dr Hunt said.
"The Zadoks scale is useful for the development of an individual plant but not necessarily the timing of the overall crop."
"For the NPI work we needed to develop a new scale of cereal development to ensure data collection was consistent."
The new system works on the median date of certain points of develop, such as tillering or heading.
The system is currently being finalised with co-authors and will be submitted for review later in the year.
The story Crop phenology project to help get sowing date right first appeared on Farm Online.