Faba bean production has proven more profitable than lupins for one farming family at Trayning, Western Australia, and is showing the promise of this fledgling industry in the west.
Trevor and Carol Fowler improved their average faba bean yields to 2.1 t/ha last year — up from their 1994 result of 400 kg/ha. Faba beans on the Fowlers' property yielded almost twice as much per hectare as lupins on their heavy red soils and achieved 30 per cent higher prices.
While more rain and no chlorsulfuron residues were the major reasons for improved yields, a price of $285/t meant the faba beans were the family's most profitable crop.
Trevor and Carol believe they could achieve an even better yield this year, given identical conditions to last year's. They are also quietly confident they can maintain their Grade 1 status through careful precautions against insect and fungal damage.
Grower-supported research behind success
The potential of the faba bean in drier areas has been explored by Agriculture WA in trials funded by growers through the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC). These trial plots have yielded up to 4.4t/ha with applications of 100 kg of diamonium phosphate.
The Fowlers' crop was established with the help of a GRDC-funded program run by Agriculture WA which actively facilitates and promotes expansion of the fledgling WA faba bean industry.
Agriculture WA faba bean development officer Stephen Loss said faba beans were forecast to achieve good returns in the short to medium term. Production in Australia last year was 104,000 tonnes — more than double the 1994-95 season figure.
Despite being a thirsty plant, the faba bean yields well in drier areas when sown early because it is an early maturing crop.
The Fowlers prefer to grow Fiord faba beans because they are suited to short-season growing environments.
Within 24 hours of receiving 5 mm of rain last April the Fowlers had direct-drilled Fiord across 60 hectares at a rate of 100 kg/ha. Due to subsoil moisture from summer rains, they were able to sow on just five mm of rain.
The seed was sown into well-structured clay loam soil which is well-drained, friable and neutral to alkaline (pH 6-9 in calcium chloride). The seed was inoculated with Group E Rhizobia at 1.5 kg/t to improve nitrogen uptake and plant growth.
At the time of seeding, Trevor applied 30 kg/ha of Agras number 1 (17% nitrogen, 7.6% phosphorus, 17% potassium, 0% sulfur) and 30 kg of double super (N-0, P-17, K-0, S-4 ). The paddock was sprayed with 1.5 L of Simazine and 500 ml of Roundup for pre-emergent control of grasses and broadleaf weeds.
Diuron was applied at 1 L/ha post-seeding, pre-emergent. When the Fowlers' faba beans reached the maximum height of a spray boom, they were sprayed with 2 kg/ha of Dithane for chocolate spot, Fusilade and Sertin for grasses, plus 100 mL/ha of Rogor for aphids.
At the first sign of bud worms, Hallmark was applied at 1 L/ha plus 300 mL/ha of Rogor for aphids. Regular monitoring of insect numbers, especially budworm, and quick control are vital. Due to the bigger seed, faba beans have a lower tolerance than lupins to insect damage.
For example, damage to just one bean on each plant in a hectare at the recommended density of 30/m' will cause a yield loss of 120 kg/ha.
In the case of budworms, regular checks are required during spring for caterpillars less than 10 mm long. The crops are usually sprayed if there are more than two caterpillars per square metre.
Subprogram 2.4.03 Contact: Dr Stephen Loss 09 368 3508
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