Keynote address: a brief history of the establishment of the Australian soybean industry

Lawn, RJ (2007) Keynote address: a brief history of the establishment of the Australian soybean industry. In: Soybeans : Maximising Potential - Proceedings of the 13th Australian Soybean Conference. From: 13th Australian Soybean Conference, 1-3 March 2005, Barooga, NSW, Australia.

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Commercial soybean production in Australia began in the subtropics in SE Qld, followed quickly by NW NSW. The first extensive introductions of cultivated varieties were made in the 1930s as part of the search for high protein grains to solve the dry season ‘protein gap’ in subtropical grazing systems. Further impetus was provided by the perceived need to develop indigenous oil crops in case shipping routes were blockaded during the Second World War. However, initial attempts to grow soybeans using varieties and agronomic practices from the southern USA were unsuccessful. It was not until the late 1960s that better adapted varieties were identified and more reliable agronomic practices were developed, based on an understanding of how photo-thermal conditions affected phenology and yield potential and the implications for seasonal and regional adaptation.

The first significant commercial areas, based on agronomic management to accommodate variety X sowing date X density interactions, were grown in SE Qld in 1969-70. Successful crops were grown rainfed in the sub-coastal West Moreton and Burnett areas, and under irrigation at Brookstead on the Darling Downs. The industry quickly expanded into the irrigated areas of NW NSW and the northern coastal areas of NSW, with smaller areas in central western NSW, northern Victoria, Central Qld, the Ord and the NT. The expansion was stimulated by demand from the fledgling oilseed manufacturing industry and import-parity pricing. Unlike in SE Qld, the initial expansion into the irrigated areas of NW NSW was based in part on wide-row culture of full-season varieties as had proved successful in the USA. It helped that some of the first growers were expatriate cotton growers familiar with USA soybean production. Later, there was greater emphasis on tailoring varieties and agronomy to local needs in most areas, especially in the tropics where it was not possible to rely on imported varieties.

The early research showed that the time to flowering, and thus yield potential per plant, varied depending on varietal maturity and sowing date. In many areas of the eastern subtropics, sowing dates were often later while temperatures were generally warmer than in the southern USA, so that varieties often flowered sooner and yield potentials were lower. Consequently, narrower rows and higher populations were needed to raise yield potentials per area. One of the outcomes of the early soybean work was the recognition that commercial yields were possible using higher density sowings of shorter duration varieties with naturally higher harvest index. This concept ran counter to the prevailing USA orthodoxy based on vegetatively vigorous, full season varieties and wide-row agronomy. It laid the foundation, however, for the later successful use of the long-juvenile trait to develop shorter-duration, photo-insensitive cultivars suited to high density culture.

Item ID: 284
Item Type: Conference Item (Research - E1)
Keywords: crop agronomy, breeding, physiology, photoperiodism
Date Deposited: 11 Sep 2006
FoR Codes: 07 AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY SCIENCES > 0703 Crop and Pasture Production > 070302 Agronomy @ 50%
07 AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY SCIENCES > 0703 Crop and Pasture Production > 070305 Crop and Pasture Improvement (Selection and Breeding) @ 50%
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