Breakthrough made in shatterproof canola

Australian researchers say they have made a major breakthrough in the effort to develop shatterproof canola.

Researchers at the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries have mapped shatter-resistant genes in Ethiopian mustard plants, also known as brassica carinata.

“We investigated the level of pod shatter resistance in Ethiopian mustard and identified sources, which were 10 times more shatter-tolerant than canola,” canola project leader Harsh Raman said in a news release.

Pod shatter is a big problem in Australia due to its hot, dry conditions.

Raman has identified five pod-shatter-resistant genes in carinata and has created molecular markers for those genes to trace their presence in crosses he has made between canola and carinata.

“Several elite lines with pod shatter resistance were selected and we plan to deliver them to Australian canola breeders within the next two to three months,” said Raman.

That is music to the ears of Jack Froese, president of the Canadian Canola Growers Association.

He believes the more sources of shatter resistance the better, even though it is unclear whether this new source will make it into Canadian germplasm.

Froese started growing Bayer’s InVigor pod-shatter-reduction lines of canola on his farm in Winkler, Man., three years ago.

“Initially, when I started growing it, I thought, ‘big deal, but I’ll try it.’ But wow, what a difference one trait can make,” he said.

“For a single trait, the value that it has actually brought to western Canadian agriculture is just phenomenal.”

Froese still swaths his canola because of harvest time pressure. But now his workers can swath during daytime instead of the middle of the night when they used to do it to take advantage of the evening dew softening the dry and crispy pods.

That has reduced fatigue among his workforce, eliminating one big health and safety risk.

He is also able to let his canola plants mature longer before swathing, resulting in better quality, bigger seeds and improved yield.

And there is less seed loss when he combines the swaths. The extra one to two bushels per acre on his 1,500 acres of canola can put another $30,000 in his bank account.

“We wouldn’t grow anything else,” said Froese.

Raman also pointed out some benefits of building shatter resistance into canola plants that go beyond improved yields.

“Pod-shatter-resistant canola varieties would reduce the cost of chemical applications to seal pods and manage unwanted canola plants, which are weeds in subsequent crops,” he said.

Chris Holzapfel, research manager with the Indian Head Agricultural Research Foundation, has extensive experience working with carinata.

“It has very good resistance to pod shatter. We’ve rarely ever seen it. It’s fair to say that swathing that crop is pretty much a waste of time (as opposed to straight combining),” he said.

The pods are rigid compared to canola pods and the plant is generally sturdier.

“You feel it when you put it through the combine,” said Holzapfel.

He doesn’t know if the carinata-based resistance will prove to be better than the lines Bayer and Pioneer already have on the market.

“I suppose it’s another option for getting that trait into the plant, which certainly isn’t a bad thing,” he said.

Bayer forecasts that 40 to 50 percent of Western Canada’s canola crop will be straight cut by 2020, up from 20 to 30 percent last year.

Holzapfel said that is a reasonable estimate.

“We’ve certainly seen a lot of uptake just over the past two growing seasons,” he said.

So, there is going to be a growing need for shatter-resistant lines.

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  • ed

    The real breakthru is not the straight cutting but rather that you get a higher yield when you swath it later due to the overall maturity. Less days in the swath and combining rates of three fold is what will keep those cheap and very cost effective swathers in the field. An hour on a $100,000 swather beats 3 hours on a $1,000,000 combine by a 30 to 1 ratio and it will be tough to close that gap. Other than that, it is all good.

    • Happy Farmer

      Ok, but your cost comparison of combine and swather is not very accurate. Here are current price comparisons. The highest price for a combine (and these are not common), are in the 1million range. Therefore you must take the highest price for a swather as well, this will be 250,000-300,000. Kinda changes your mentioned ratio. But it is much more accurate.

      • ed

        Still F’d however. As long as they are that far apart I mean and travelling at vastly different speeds, and burning vastly different volumes of fuel, and requireing vastly different year end maintenance costs. Am “I” missing anything here or???

  • justin

    The best thing to do with the swather is sell it while they still have some value. Why would anyone go out and swath a crop, go across every acre with a man, fuel, depreciation to come back over the exact same acres with a combine? And on top to it, kill the crop earlier than its mature? Why does no one in the developed world swath wheat anymore? Because you can just combine it direct. Europe has been combing non pod shatter rape seed for decades successfully. The swather is a way of the past much like the horse and plow. The only value in a swather is someone that is growing hay or random situations that require it due to a non ordinary event.


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