Recent expansion of cropping into Australia’s high-rainfall zone (HRZ) has involved dual-purpose crops suited to long growing seasons that produce both forage and grain. Early adoption of dual-purpose cropping involved cereals; however, dual-purpose canola (Brassica napus) can provide grazing and grain and a break crop for cereals and grass-based pastures. Grain yield and grazing potential of canola (up until bud-visible stage) were simulated, using APSIM, for four canola cultivars at 13 locations across Australia’s HRZ over 50 years. The influence of sowing date (2-weekly sowing dates from early March to late June), nitrogen (N) availability at sowing (50, 150 and 250 kg N/ha), and crop density (20, 40, 60, 80 plants/m2) on forage and grain production was explored in a factorial combination with the four canola cultivars. The cultivars represented winter, winter × spring intermediate, slow spring, and fast spring cultivars, which differed in response to vernalisation and photoperiod.
Overall, there was significant potential for dual-purpose use of winter and winter × spring cultivars in all regions across Australia’s HRZ. Mean simulated potential yields exceeded 4.0 t/ha at most locations, with highest mean simulated grain yields (4.5–5.0 t/ha) in southern Victoria and lower yields (3.3–4.0 t/ha) in central and northern New South Wales. Winter cultivars sown early (March–mid-April) provided most forage (>2000 dry sheep equivalent (DSE) grazing days/ha) at most locations because of the extended vegetative stage linked to the high vernalisation requirement. At locations with Mediterranean climates, the low frequency (<30% of years) of early sowing opportunities before mid-April limited the utility of winter cultivars. Winter × spring cultivars (not yet commercially available), which have an intermediate phenology, had a longer, more reliable sowing window, high grazing potential (up to 1800 DSE-days/ha) and high grain-yield potential. Spring cultivars provided less, but had commercially useful grazing opportunities (300–700 DSE-days/ha) and similar yields to early-sown cultivars. Significant unrealised potential for dual-purpose canola crops of winter × spring and slow spring cultivars was suggested in the south-west of Western Australia, on the Northern Tablelands and Slopes of New South Wales and in southern Queensland. The simulations emphasised the importance of early sowing, adequate N supply and sowing density to maximise grazing potential from dual-purpose crops.