One of our favourite customers is back at The Plant Accelerator. Dr Rhiannon Schilling has used the APPF’s facilities on many occasions and knows how useful they are. In her latest project, Rhiannon is using the Smarthouse to evaluate super high oleic acid (SHO) safflower in sodic and saline soils.

“Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius L.) has the potential to be a valuable oilseed crop for many South Australian growers.  SHO safflower oil could be used as an alternate plant-based, high grade, reusable, and biodegradable fuel,” says Dr Schilling.

“Observational evidence from interstate suggests safflowers may have some tolerance to sodic soil types (high salinity, high boron, high aluminium and high pH). That interested us because soils with high levels of sodium reduce yields on some 68 per cent of Australian cropping land including a considerable proportion of SA.”

This South Australian Grain Industry Trust (SAGIT) funded research project will determine the sodicity tolerance of pre-breeding safflower parental lines and compare the growth and water use of safflower to canola and wheat in non-sodic and alkaline, sodic soils.

The Smarthouse will enable the measurement of projected shoot area (biomass) and shoot growth rates, daily water use of each plant and help to quantify the sodicity tolerance of the SHO safflower. Shoot tissue and soil ICP analysis to evaluate the nutrient composition will also be undertaken. Field trials will also test the SHO safflower at a non-saline and saline site in SA this year.

“Together, our field trials and the Smarthouse experiment will help us to evaluate the performance of safflower, including new SHO lines, and provide information on their suitability for use in sodic and saline soils.”

Rhiannon had one of the first experiments in The Plant Accelerator. Today she is the Program Leader of Agronomy at the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) a division of the Department of Primary Industries and Regions. At the APPF we like to think we have been a small part of the journey.