Source: The Land – 05/04/2013

IN SPITE of a perception that plantings of genetically modified (GM) canola have stagnated at around 11 per cent of the national canola crop, Monsanto Australia managing director Daniel Kruithoff is confident the company can increase its market share to 30pc of the plant into the future.

GM plantings were at around 176,000ha last year, or 11pc of the national crop, and expectations are that this figure will remain relatively static this year, with many farmers preferring other, conventional, herbicide tolerant varieties.

However, Mr Kruithoff said he was positive that the increases in acreage being seen in WA would also begin to occur in Victoria and NSW as new varieties hit the market.

“It takes time and because of the moratorium on production, Roundup Ready (RR) varieties were behind, but we’re catching up and the new varieties available are exciting,” Mr Kruithoff said.

Mr Kruithoff said Monsanto understood the Australian market would not be like Canada, where over 90pc of the crop was GM, but added there were specific fits.

“It really depends on your location and your weed spectrum, we’re starting to see hot spots around the country where there’s really good uptake of this system,” he said.

Mr Kruithoff also said ability to deliver the product at harvest had an influence, with farmers in some areas not having a bulk handling terminal accepting GM nearby.

However, with more sites accepting GM, it will be easier to deliver the product.

His comments were backed up by Corowa, NSW, agronomist Andrew Bell, who said there were two new sites opened up in his local area in the southern Riverina and north-east Victoria last year, reflecting an increasing acreage of GM crop.

Mr Bell said the primary factor behind growers in his area using RR canola was to control resistant weeds with glyphosate in rotation with paraquat.

Mr Kruithoff said in spite of the other herbicide resistant options, such as triazine tolerant (TT) and Clearfield canola varieties, the GM lines could be useful, in particular when growers had group A and B chemical resistance weeds.

“That’s the difference between here and Canada, where RR was really the only option,” he said.

He said given feedback from the seed companies regarding new, agronomically improved varieties, he felt 30pc of the market was realistic.

“We’d expect growers to rotate their chemical groups with canola, using TT, RR and Clearfield lines,” Mr Kruithoff said.

But while he said new varieties to be released over the next couple of years would increase uptake, Mr Kruithoff said the real game-changer could be research into next generation traits.

“We’ve had some good research work, at a proof of concept level, into a double-stacked gene that would combine both RR and TT traits, which, from feedback from growers, is something they would really value.”

The other big innovation could come in terms of time of spraying.

One of the major gripes with current RR varieties is that spraying can only be done up to six-leaf stage, which does not give growers scope to control late ryegrass germinations.

Mr Kruithoff said work was being done to try to extend the application window.

“It’s the same story as with cotton, when we first introduced RR cotton there was a limited application window, and that is now increased,” he said.

The product was priced realistically, Mr Kruithoff said, in spite of technology fees to use the seed, which pushed per kilogram costs of GM seed above other lines.

“We think we have pricing at the right level, but we’ll wait and see – growers will vote with their wallets.”

At the other end of the production cycle, he said premiums for non-GM canola were coming back in.

“It’s probably back at around $10/t now, which is a lot less than what it was, so that also helps bring RR into the equation at sowing time.”