Oat varieties that have grown well in saline or sodic soils in a growth room and greenhouse screening study will now be tested under field conditions.
The project has attracted just under $250,000 funding over 2 years and 8 months from the South Australian Grain Industry Trust Fund (SAGIT).
Researcher Dr Graham Lyons from the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, said the project aims to demonstrate which commercially available Australian oat varieties are relatively saline/sodic tolerant, and which overseas-bred varieties could be used by breeders to further improve the current tolerant Australian varieties.
“The Identification of oats that will grow better in harsh conditions will have real on-farm impacts,” he said. “Farmers will be able to better utilise some marginal lands, resulting in higher incomes for farmers in these areas”.
Sodic soils are common in Australian cropping areas and secondary salinity is often present in these soils: yield losses of around 50% are common.
“Farmers will be able to grow our recommended tolerant varieties on saline/sodic paddocks and expect to obtain higher yield than by growing non-tolerant varieties.
“We expect, given our findings to date, that our most tolerant oats will yield at least as highly as the most tolerant barley varieties on these soils.”
In addition, the project will provide new knowledge of mineral (Na, Cl, K, Mg, Ca) levels in indicator leaves, and how these relate to observed differences in salt/sodicity tolerance in oats.
Collaborators on the project include Yusuf Genc, John Harris, Dr Pamela Zwer and the SARDI oat breeding group here at Waite.
Graham hails from a farming family and has long held an interest in applied research which can benefit producers and consumers in a timely manner. He has worked for many years on agronomic biofortification of food crops, including HarvestPlus and ACIAR projects in East Africa, South America and throughout the Pacific.