Emergency meetings by state departments of agriculture have determined that despite the ravages of Ascochyta blight last year, chickpea production is too valuable to give up.
The sudden, unexpected and widespread blight damage to crops in 1998, particularly in SA and Victoria, reduced the value of Australian chickpea production to about half the $87 million estimate.
However, following urgent meetings in Horsham, Griffith, Dubbo and Gunnedah, Darren Robey, from the Victorian Department of Natural Resources and Environment and Pulse Australia's southern representative, said there was no doubt that production should continue. Chickpeas are a high value cash crop and a useful rotation tool.
"It is not a case of the industry being written off because of the blight," he said.
"On the other hand, just because chickpea production might be down doesn't mean a price bonanza in 1999.
"Growers will need to do their budgets carefully and base them on normal chickpea prices. "At all of the meetings the message from marketers was that chickpea prices here are strongly linked to what happens overseas."
Mr Robey said P-Pickel T was under permit from the National Registration Authority as a seed treatment in all states.
"Growers should also budget for in-crop fungicide sprays to prevent the disease from becoming established, including one at the six-to-eight-week stage," he said.
"With GRDC support, fliers about these technical aspects of chickpea growing will be distributed in all states and chickpea issues will be on the agenda of GRDC Adviser Update seminars and other forums this year."
Pulse Australia is warning growers to carefully consider guidelines and protocols for P-Pickel T application to most successfully combat Ascochyta. As Ground Cover went to press, Pulse Australia had applied for an extension of the special permit to cover the growing season.
The way to go in '99
Growers intending to sow chickpeas this year needed "to give themselves a good start by adopting the following measures":
- getting rid of infected trash
- spacing chickpea crops at least four years apart
- not sowing a new crop adjacent to a recent one
- sourcing the cleanest seed possible
- growing the less susceptible varieties
- having seed tested for disease levels
- applying a seed dressing.