Pulse agronomist Dr Jason Brand.
PHOTO: Brad Collis
As the area planted to lentils, faba beans, field peas and chickpeas continues to grow in southern Australia, a new project aims to give growers more confidence in managing pulses under different environmental and farming conditions.
The GRDC-funded research by Agriculture Victoria and the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) adds another layer of knowledge about pulse performance that will underpin the adoption of new varieties.
Project leader Jason Brand, senior research agronomist for pulses with Agriculture Victoria, says the three-year project builds on past research in Victoria and SA that has driven rapid uptake of new varieties with improved adaptability and novel management traits.
For example, since it was launched in spring 2013, the popularity of the Group B herbicide-tolerant red lentil PBA HurricaneXT has increased to the point where it accounts for about half the area of lentils grown in Australia.
“We have also seen the expansion of pulses into areas where they were traditionally less-adapted, with new areas of lentils and field peas in the low-rainfall zone and faba beans in the high-rainfall zone of southern Australia,” Dr Brand says.
“This expansion reflects grower confidence in new varieties and the management packages developed to support them through strategic research.”
The project builds on long-term research and development programs such as Southern Pulse Agronomy (SPA; DAV00057, DAV00084 and DAV00113) and Pulse Breeding Australia (PBA) and is connected with targeted germplasm enhancement research.
Dr Brand says this close connection to pre-breeding and breeding programs means the research team can be a step in front, working with new varieties before they are released.
Farming systems match
“Our trials will include several non-commercialised varieties of pulses, which means we can work with new traits to address any management gaps before these varieties are released to growers,” Dr Brand says.
For example, a SARDI pre-breeding project led by Larn McMurray at Clare, SA, has developed herbicide-tolerant faba bean and lentil germplasm.
“There is a fair bit of work to do around actually understanding what that means for farming, so this new project will look at pulses (commercialised and in the pipeline) in the broader context to see how a trait such as herbicide tolerance responds in different soil types and environmental conditions.”
The researchers will also study other key traits including disease resistance (in response to recent resistance breakdowns), canopy development, early maturity, tolerance to soil constraints and harvest quality.
This targeted agronomic research will produce data for advanced breeding lines and new pulse varieties, which will then be synthesised into management packages for the southern Australian cropping regions in collaboration with PBA or other pulse breeding organisations.
This will provide growers with more information about new varieties and agronomic strategies so they can better select and manage pulses to meet their farming goals and improve productivity and profitability.
The project will also seek to establish performance benchmarks of the main pulse crops to identify any gaps in yield potential that could be bridged by future research.
This will address issues in major and expanding production zones in alignment with the GRDC’s agro-ecological zones: SA Mid-North/Yorke Peninsula/Lower Eyre Peninsula; SA/Victoria Bordertown/Wimmera; SA/Victoria Mallee including Upper Eyre Peninsula; and Victoria High Rainfall. Growers will have the opportunity to view trials at field days and crop walks during the project.
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