Impressive start with first Monola crop at Undera

Shepparton district farmer, Rob Backway, may be new to grain growing, but he’s made an impressive start with his first crop of Monola® yielding 2 t/ha last year and plans to grow another 80 hectares under irrigation this season.

He is one of an increasing number of growers to plant Monola, a healthy alternative to other cooking oils developed over the past 10 years by global seed company, Nuseed.

After years of dairying, Mr Backway fulfilled his long-held ambition to grow grain only two years ago, relying on advice from neighbouring farmers and agronomists like Luke Nagle from Advanced Ag in Shepparton.

He and his wife, Jo, and three children farm at Undera, between Shepparton and Echuca.

“I was thinking of growing Monola last year and Luke confirmed it was a good choice for our rotation, after soybeans and as a break crop that reduces weed competition before wheat,” Mr Backway said.

“The premium payment of $50/t was another incentive for choosing Monola, so with Luke’s guidance, I went ahead and direct drilled 68 hectares of Monola 413TT in both irrigated and dryland paddocks.”

This year, the premium payment has increased to $95/tonne for triazine-tolerant Monola varieties and $65/tonne for Roundup Ready Monola to attract more farmers to grow the varieties.

Monola oil is gaining momentum in the food industry as a healthy alternative to cooking oils containing high levels of saturated and trans fats.

“From an agronomic perspective, I believe Monola has a similar fit to canola, with similar financial returns,” Mr Nagle said.

“However, increasing Monola plantings will provide a healthier oil option and help in reducing the consumption of palm oil.”

Mr Backway said he learnt a lot from his first experience with Monola that will prove useful this season.

As the season turned out, there was a big difference in yield between the 56 hectares of irrigated Monola and a 12 hectare dryland block. All the Monola was direct drilled in April and early May, at 2.3 kg/ha with 100 kg/ha of DAP and a topdress of 100 kg/ha of urea, achieving a good strike and growing well during winter.

“I pre-watered the irrigated blocks and again in spring to finish off, with yields reaching 2 t/ha,” he said.

“While I was lucky to miss the widespread frosts last year, the dry spring really took its toll on the dryland crop, which ran out of moisture to yield only 0.5 t/ha by harvest.”

Mr Backway said he’ll windrow his crops a week or two earlier this season. He also intends sowing the new Monola 314TT variety, an early maturing triazine tolerant variety with moderate disease resistance suited to shorter season regions like north-east Victoria.

“I’m also planning to grow 180 hectares of wheat this year, including a newer feed wheat variety called Revenue, as well as leasing some more country to expand.

“It’s a big change from dairying and a slow process, particularly changing over the farm machinery, but I am enjoying the challenge,” Mr Backway said.

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Monola is gaining momentum as a healthy alternative to other cooking oils for Luke Nagle, Agronomist with Advanced Ag (left), and Undera farmer, Rob Backway, who plans to sow 80 hectares of Monola this season, following successful trials last year.