John P. Brennan, Neil Wratten and Rodney J. Mailer


NSW Agriculture, Wagga Wagga Agricultural Institute, Wagga Wagga, NSW 2650






Changes in canola cultivars have brought about significant increases in yield and oil content since the release of the first Australian canola cultivar in 1980. The aim in this paper is to trace the improvements that have been made through the new canola cultivars in NSW since that time, and to estimate the economic value of the improvements made. The gains that have been made in canola yields through the series of new cultivars released over that period are identified. The improvements brought about in quality, notably oil content, through those cultivars, are also examined. The economic value of those improvements are estimated, to provide a basis for determining the overall benefits flowing from canola improvement in NSW in relation to the costs of the research and development program.




Breeding, Value, Benefit, Variety




A rapeseed breeding program at Wagga Wagga Agricultural Institute, Wagga Wagga, was established in the 1970s with the aims of developing rapeseed varieties, both Brassica rapas and B. napus, suitable for New South Wales. The main objectives were:

·           Low erucic acid levels in the oil;

·           Low glucosinolate levels in the meal; and

·           Resistance to the disease blackleg (Leptosphaeria maculans).


Once the first two of these basic objectives were achieved, the crop was able to be produced and marketed as canola. The objectives of the current canola improvement program are high yield, yield stability, improved oil content, the maintenance of canola quality and maintenance and improvement of blackleg resistance. The program has an integrated approach involving a close relationship between the breeder and the oilseed chemist.



Varieties Developed by the Program

The varieties developed and released by the breeding program at Wagga Wagga since its inception are shown in Table 1. The initial emphasis of the program was on B. rapas, but from the mid 1980s the emphasis switched to B. napus, in line with changes in cultivar preference for commercial production. Similarly, the initial emphasis was on main-season mid-maturity cultivars, but in more recent years increased emphasis has been given to early maturing varieties for drier environments. Also, in recent years, two triazine-tolerant cultivars have been released by the breeding program. In this paper, the focus of the analysis is on the conventional, mid-maturity B. napus varieties that have had a significant impact on the development of the canola industry in NSW.



Table 1: Varieties Developed by Wagga Breeding Program


Year of            Variety           Type                    Maturity                     Classification



1982                Jumbuck            B. campestris     Main-season                Conventional

1985                Bunyip               B. campestris     Main-season                Conventional

1988                Maluka              B. napus            Main-season                Conventional

1988                Shiralee              B. napus            Main-season                Conventional

1989                Eureka               B. napus            Main-season                Conventional

1990                Barossa              B. napus            Main-season                Conventional

1990                Yickadee           B. napus            Main-season                Conventional

1992                Oscar                 B. napus            Main-season                Conventional

1996                Scoop                B. napus            Main-season                Conventional

1996                Grouse               B. napus            Main-season                Conventional

1996                Monty                B. napus            Early                            Conventional

1996                Drum                 B. napus            Early                            Triazine Tolerant

1996                Clancy               B. napus            Main-season                Triazine Tolerant

1999                BLN1216*        B. napus            Main-season                Conventional

1999                BLN1400*        B. napus            Main-season                Conventional

1999                BLN1239*        B. napus            Early                            Conventional


     * Due to be released in 1999.




Characteristics of varieties released

The characteristics of the main varieties are shown in Table 2. With the change through time from Maluka and Shiralee (released in 1988), to Barossa (released 1990), yields levels increased by approximately 7%, meal protein increased slightly and oil content fell. Both erucic acid and glucosinolates in the meal fell significantly with this change. The subsequent change to Oscar (released in 1992, and still a major variety in NSW) led to further significant yield increases, but a decline in protein content. However, oil content was increased with Oscar. The gains made in reducing glucosinolates were continued, with further reduction in Oscar, while maintaining low levels of erucic acid.


Over the period 1988 to 1992, the net effect was a significant (13%) yield increase, with marginal reductions in oil and protein content, and accompanied by a small reduction in erucic acid and a 40% reduction in glucosinolate levels. The line BLN1400, due for release in 1999, provides a significant improvement in oil content over earlier varieties at the same time as further reducing erucic acid and glucosinolate levels.



Table 2: Characteristics of Main Varieties


                                                                                     Erucic          Total        Meal

Variety         Release          Yield             Oil               acid        glucosin-   protein

                                             (t/ha)             (%)              (%)          olatesa       (%b)

Maluka            1988                1.86            40.3              0.2            18.3            35.1

Shiralee            1988                1.82            40.5              0.0            20.6            35.7

Eureka             1989                1.83            39.4              0.4            16.7            35.4

Barossa            1990                2.00            39.2              0.0            13.9            35.3

Yickadee         1990                1.81            40.9              0.0            16.4            36.8

Oscar               1992                2.09            39.9              0.1            10.9            34.7

BLN1400        1999                2.12            44.1              0.0              6.0            36.8


Barossa > Maluka                   1.07            0.97           -0.20            0.76            1.01

Oscar > Barossa                      1.05            1.02            0.10            0.78            0.98

Oscar > Maluka                     1.13            0.99           -0.10            0.60            0.99

BLN1400 > Oscar                  1.01            1.10           -0.10            0.55            1.06

BLN1400 > Maluka                1.14            1.09           -0.20            0.33            1.05


     a      Micro-moles per gram of whole seed

     b      % at 13% moisture

Source: Original data from Voluntary Registration Scheme for Oilseed Cultivars: Application for Registration of Cultivar (various issues); Unpublished trial data.




Economic value of improvements

The average price for canola in the past 10 years has been $370 per tonne (delivered Melbourne). Given the payment system whereby the price received is adjusted by 1.5% for each 1% oil content above or below 40%, the price for each variety can be determined around that average price. The results are shown in Table 3. The reduction in price for Barossa from its lower oil content was massively out-weighed by the increased yield. Similarly, when Oscar replaced Barossa, the price and yield were both improved, and returns to farmers were significantly enhanced. These represent significant improvements for farmers in NSW over the period to 1999. BLN1400 will have marginally higher yield combined with a sharply higher oil content (and therefore a higher price). The net effect will be a further sharp increase in returns to farmers in the future as BLN1400 replaces Oscar.



Table 3: Economic Value of Varietal Improvements


                           Yield                 Oil %              Price      Gross Income        Gain

                           (t/ha)                  (%)                 ($/t)             ($/ha)              ($/ha)


Maluka                 1.86                 40.3                 371.63             692

Barossa                2.00                 39.2                 365.56             731                  +39

Oscar                   2.09                 39.9                 369.45             774                  +43

BLN1400             2.12                 44.1                 392.49             831                  +57



In valuing these improvements, no account is taken of the extent to which the reduction in glucosinolates in the meal have enabled an expansion of the use of canola meal as a replacement for soymeal in livestock rations. While this represents a valuable improvement, no attempt has been made in this analysis to value that improvement.



Economic analysis of improvement program

The value of the gains made through these varieties depends on the area on which they are sown and the benefits per hectare that flow from the varieties.

·      There is little precise information on the variety shares in the canola crop in NSW. However, seed sales information leads to the estimate that Oscar has a share of 60% across NSW in recent years, following an even higher market share for Barossa in the preceding few years.

·      On the basis that NSW canola area has grown from an average of 29,000 ha in the five years to 1988-89 to 215,000 ha in the five years to 1998-99, the total area sown to Oscar in recent years is estimated at 130,000 ha.

·      If the benefits from Oscar are $43/ha, the gross aggregate gains from the development of Oscar (compared to Barossa) are approximately $5.6 million per year.

·      Similarly, the benefits of Barossa over Maluka off $39/ha give aggregate benefits of $2.8 million per year over the preceding 5 years.

·      The release of BLN1400 in 1999 as a replacement for Oscar will lead to a further income increase of $57 per ha, or over $7 million per year at the current areas sown to Oscar.


 These figures represent substantial increases in economic returns to farmers in NSW.


In broad terms, the canola improvement program at Wagga Wagga costs less than $1.0 million per year, so the benefits flowing from the program are well in excess of the costs.




The canola improvement program at Wagga has led to a steady flow of improved varieties to the growers of NSW over the past 10-15 years. Those improvements have enabled the industry to expand and for canola to establish a significant place in the cropping systems across much of NSW. The improvements have included significant yield improvements, at the same time as minor reductions in oil content and protein content of the meal to date. From next year, the latest varieties will have higher levels of yield, oil and protein than the varieties released in 1988. In terms of other quality characteristics, the erucic acid has been reduced to minimal levels and maintained at that level, while the level of glucosinolates in the meal has been reduced very significantly through the varieties over that period.


Those benefits far outweigh the costs of the canola improvement program at Wagga that has been the mainstay of the new varieties developed and grown in NSW.


In addition, canola has been found to be a very valuable crop in farming systems, by providing benefits to following cereal crops. These benefits come through the disease and weed control break that canola provides to a cereal crops. The direct and indirect benefits flowing from canola have transformed the farming systems in southern NSW in particular, and have led to a more sustainable farming system. There is every reason to expect these benefits to continue to flow in the future.