Dalby-based seed processor and supplier Todd Jorgenesen, from AssociatedGRAIN, predicts a further 50 per cent expansion into the area planted to PBA Warda faba beans across southern Queensland in the 2014-15 winter grains season.
Subtropical varietal adaptation drawn from Australian faba bean germplasm has recast the pulse crop as a lucrative sequencing option in northern farming systems – and strengthened the country’s stronghold on its global export market.
Driving this step change in the crop’s augmentation is the northern node of the GRDC-supported Australian faba bean breeding program, which has developed a third faba bean cultivar suited to the northern grains region.
The release of the Pulse Breeding Australia (PBA) Cairo variety in 2003 and the DozaA variety in 2008 saw the national crop expand into southern Queensland and northern New South Wales across 94,230 hectares (over nine years until 2012).
Now adding to this growth trajectory is the 2012 release of the PBA Warda faba bean variety, which is expected to replace its predecessors in northern grains operations and build on the Australian crop’s global market success.
Australia is now the world’s largest exporter of faba beans – shipping 306,021 tonnes in 2013-14. Of this total export volume, about 70 per cent (or 213,766t) was traded to Egypt at an average price of $400 to $440/t.
Observing the northern expansion in the area planted to PBA Warda and its movement into Egyptian markets is Queensland seed supplier and processor Todd Jorgensen, director of AssociatedGRAIN at Dalby.
Mr Jorgensen says in southern Queensland alone, growers harvested more than 5000t of PBA Warda from about 3000ha in the 2013-14 season, up from 1500t harvested from about 1000ha in the 2012-13 season.
He forecasts the area sown to PBA Warda will further increase by 50 per cent, or 1500ha, in the 2014-15 winter grains season, largely as a consequence of the variety’s agronomic benefits and high commodity prices.
However, highlighting the new variety’s role in expanding the national crop is Mr Jorgensen’s estimate that 40 per cent of growers on the Darling Downs who bought PBA Warda seed in 2014 were sowing faba beans for the first time.
This estimate is based on AssociatedGRAIN’s supply of PBA Warda seed to Darling Downs growers: 300t in 2013 and 150t in 2012.
He says the increased area sown to PBA Warda has also had implications for chickpea cropping, with faba beans replacing about 1500ha of the crop on the western slopes of the Great Dividing Range in 2014.
While chickpeas attracted about $20/t more than faba beans in recent seasons, closing the gap on this price disparity are higher yields from faba beans.
From a processing perspective, he says faba beans also tend to be less prone to mechanical damage than other pulses, such as chickpeas and mungbeans.
Durability is important because faba beans are visually assessed for size, shape and colour in Australia’s main export markets, Mr Jorgensen says.
In addition to Egypt, these markets include Saudi Arabia with 12 per cent of exports, the United Arab Emirates with five per cent, and Indonesia with four per cent.
Such hardiness also means faba beans are less susceptible to damage from stored-grain insects than chickpeas, which allows Mr Jorgensen to avoid fumigating the crop in storage.
With 80 per cent of the crop sold into export markets by the end of March, he says faba beans further help to spread marketing risk across the growing season – a cashflow benefit that is also attractive to growers.
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Faba bean foray into the north takes hold
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