Five things to know about dual-purpose crops

23 July 2015

Dual-purpose crops offer producers the opportunity to significantly lift the profitably of mixed-farming enterprises but they require strategic management to achieve optimal grazing and grain yield.

A field day in Canberra on 6 August 2015 will showcase research funded by MLA, GRDC and CSIRO into managing the crop/grazing interactions of dual-purpose crops and tapping into the benefits of integrating wheat and canola into the pasture system.

Here are five things that will be covered at the field day:

How to turn research into on-farm results

The past decade of research has delivered winter wheat and winter canola varieties suitable for dual-purpose use, as well as best-bet management strategies for crops and animals such as supplementation, pasture spelling and weed control. Collaborative on-farm research with leading growers and consultants has fine-tuned crop and grazing management. Producers with profitable dual-purpose crops – and the researchers behind them – will share their successful approaches on the day.

How to integrate dual-purpose wheat and canola into grazing systems

CSIRO Chief Research Scientist, Dr John Kirkegaard, said the first step to successful integration of dual-purpose crops was to start slowly and establish a paddock or two at a time. His second tip was to be prepared, as the up-front investment of dual-purpose crops is high (relative to livestock), and risks (such as establishment and weed control) need to be well managed from the outset. Other factors – variety selection, withholding periods for chemicals, grazing management to optimise forage and grain yield – all rely on timely and successful establishment. He advised producers to seek advice from experienced growers or even consider a share arrangement with a producer who has successfully established dual-purpose crops.

How to manage dual-purpose crops around Canberra and the Tablelands

It is important for growers in cold and high rainfall environments to select the right winter varieties and establish crops early to maximise forage and grain yield potential. Producers need to consider how they will organise their livestock enterprise to make money from the additional autumn and winter feed provided by the crops. It is also important to manage weeds coming out of the pasture phase.

How to reduce yield loss

Grazing of the dual-purpose crops is an important factor influencing grain yield, so producers should time grazing around the crop’s development stage. If crops are not locked up before they become reproductive and begin to elongate above the ground, livestock can remove the developing wheat heads and flower buds. This reduces yield in two ways – by removing the grain sites, and by delaying flowering until hotter, drier periods. Researchers at the field day will provide residual biomass guidelines so producers can identify the best lock-up time, based on their target grain yield. 

How to maximise feed value of dual-purpose canola

CSIRO researchers at the Ginninderra Experiment Station are exploring factors which impact liveweight gain off grazing canola forage, such as palatability, gut acclimatisation to the diet, low fibre content and secondary plant compounds.

Dual Purpose Crops Field Day details

Where: CSIRO Ginninderra Experiment Station, Canberra (Entrance from A25-Barton Highway; opposite to the National Dinosaur Museum) 

When: Thursday 6 August, 10:00 am – 2:30 pm (including a BBQ lunch) 

Registration: RSVP by 30 July to Scott McDonald E: or T: 0428 477429, or Cesar Pinares-Patiño E:

Did you know?

  • Dual-purpose crops are an effective way to clean up weedy paddocks for good pasture establishment.
  • Dual-purpose crops grow at least twice as fast in winter than pastures.
  • Dual-purpose canola is the same plant as fodder rape – but it produces canola-quality seed with high value.
  • Animals need sodium and magnesium supplements to make the most of wheat forage.

Read the Canola best practice management guide for south-eastern Australia  


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