Herbicide-tolerant barley offers growers more options

07-04-2023 | |
AGT head of science and business development Tristan Coram (left) and barley breeder Paul Telfer examine the new Titan AX barley at Roseworthy, South Australia. - Photo: AGT
AGT head of science and business development Tristan Coram (left) and barley breeder Paul Telfer examine the new Titan AX barley at Roseworthy, South Australia. - Photo: AGT

Australian Grain Technologies (AGT) has released an herbicide-tolerant barley variety. “It gives growers an additional option for controlling grassweeds in their barley crops”, AGT head of science and business development Tristan Coram says.

The new herbicide-tolerant barley variety took some time to develop. Australian Buckleboo (SA) farmer Shannan Larwood from Buckleboo in South Australia started the process. In 2010, he had some serious difficulties in killing volunteer barley plants in a crop of field peas after using a Group 1 herbicide that should have knocked them out.

Shannan had the foresight to hand harvest the barley plants that matured with a pea crop. He then explained to Researcher Ben Fleet from the University of Adelaide what he had found, at a farmer meeting in Buckleboo.

“We were drinking a beer at the end of the meeting, and a friend suggested that Shannon would come and talk to me”, Mr Fleet says. “Shannon told me about the barley that would not die and seemed resistant. I thought, we’ll look at it. It is very unlikely, but if there is something there, we should make something out of it, and get it out to the market. That would give farmers another option to manage those difficult-to-control grassweeds.“

After some tests, the barley indeed proved to be tolerant to herbicide. “We worked together with Shannon ever since”, Mr Fleet explains. “It was a long process to get it to market, because we started it in 2010.”

Very high levels of tolerance

Associate Professor Gurjeet Gill of the University of Adelaide also joined the team, and the researchers set up trials to investigate. They discovered the presence of very high levels of tolerance to several GROUP 1 herbicides (ACCase-inhibiting herbicides). Further field trials also confirmed strong expression of herbicide tolerance in this non-GMO barley line.

The discovery was the subject of a successfully granted patent in 2018. Following this, Australian Grain Technologies (AGT) began working in partnership with the University of Adelaide to further characterise and commercialise the technology in elite barley varieties, culminating in the arrival of the CoAXium Barley Production System, that became available for farmers this season.

CoAXium Barley Production System

A partnership of AGT with Albaugh LLC and Sipcam Australia launched the CoAXium Barley Production System. It involves Aggressor herbicide, and the herbicide-tolerant barley, named Titan AX. The system offers growers a new tool for control of tough annual grass weeds including brome grass, barley grass, wild oats, susceptible ryegrass, and ALS (Group 2) resistant weeds.

“Those sort of weeds are very difficult to control”, Mr Fleet points out. “Particularly in cereals. Now farmers have a cost-effective way to manage this. And whatever you don’t get with the herbicide, your barley will be able to suppress. This is important for farmers. Especially with grasses, otherwise you’ll end up with a blowout of seed production, and you will have a legacy problem for many years.”

No soil residue

Tristan Coram emphasises that the system provides more crop rotation freedom due to lack of soil residue. “Aggressor herbicide applied according to the label will not result in residues in barley grain, thus no market access issues have been identified.”

With our system you have the freedom to plant whatever you like

“Growers now have an alternative to Clearfield, a system that uses Intervix herbicide, which can leave residue in the soil. With Clearfield, growers therefore have a limited choice of what they can sow into the soil the following crop. With our system, you don’t have that issue. You have the freedom to plant whatever you like.”

AGT testing of the technology has demonstrated excellent crop safety and performance across a range of environments. AGT barley breeder Paul Telfer says Titan AX is similar to Compass barley, a vigorous barley with a high grain yield. Titan AX is particularly suited to low-to-medium rainfall zones, and Mallee-style environments where early vigour and longer straw are preferred, and lodging is less of an issue.

“However, our data suggests that Titan AX performs consistently well across a range of growing conditions and therefore should be a suitable option for all growers that see value in tolerance to Aggressor herbicide”, Mr Telfer says.

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Buckleboo farmer Shannan Larwood (left) with University of Adelaide researchers Ben Fleet (centre) and Gurjeet Gill (right). - Photo: AGT
Buckleboo farmer Shannan Larwood (left) with University of Adelaide researchers Ben Fleet (centre) and Gurjeet Gill (right). - Photo: AGT

A lot of interest in herbicide-tolerant barley variety

So far, the interest in the new herbicide-tolerant barley variety has been good, Mr Coram says. “We launched a website and a stewardship program, to go along with it. Last year, we had quite a few demonstration sites around the country, where we showed the system to growers. We’ve had a lot of interest through that. And the seed orders are very good.”

Currently, Titan AX is only available in Australia, but Mr Coram says it is possible that at a later point in time it will be for sale in other countries. Titan AX is being released as a feed variety, but AGT expects it will eventually also be accepted as a malt variety.

It’s a whole new production system that can change the entire cropping program

Sipcam Australia marketing and operations manager Richard Branson says the introduction of the CoAXium system has the potential to change how barley is grown in Australia. “There is lot more to CoAXium than a non-GMO herbicide-tolerant barley variety”, he points out.

“It’s a whole new production system that can change the entire cropping program, which is why CoAXium will be fully supported by a stewardship program developed by Sipcam. The new program will involve all aspects of growing herbicide-tolerant barley, including the use of Aggressor herbicide, rotation implications, herbicide-resistance strategies and integrated weed control.”

For Albaugh LLC, the CoAXium platform represents its initial exposure to Australia. “We look forward to bringing more innovative technologies to Australian growers in the near future”, North America President Douglas Kaye says.

Albaugh Global Director of Innovation Platform Technologies Chad Shelton says the partnership represents the backbone of Albaugh’s Innovation Platform, which focuses on strategic partnerships to deliver novel technologies around the globe.

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René Groeneveld Correspondent for Australia