CRICKET IS a funny game - individual performance can turn a game around, but it's the team effort that wins the day - and the same is true in farming.
A couple of years ago the promising Australian chickpea industry looked like suffering an 'innings defeat' from disease. Aschochyta was devastating the industry across the country and, in the prime growing areas of the northern region, Phytophthora root rot was an added risk. Now, two new 'batsmen' Howzat and Jimbour are at the crease, but without the support of the team ~ paddock selection, quality seed, crop management and fungicide ~ the game may still be lost.
Jimbour was released by QDPI in 2000 as an erect, easyharvesting variety with good resistance to Phytophthora and botrytis grey mould. Jimbour combines the Phytophthora resistance of Barwon and the favoured erect habit of Amethyst. It is likely to replace both varieties. The seed quality and yield of Jimbour are also superior. Jimbour is considered highly susceptible to Aschochyta (similar to Amethyst, Sona and Heera) but slightly less susceptible than Barwon and Norwind.
Dave and Marg Daniels of 'Tarvellan' 70 km north of Clermont in Central Queensland added a 120 ha seed crop of Jimbour to their 600 ha of Amethyst grown in 200 J. This year the Daniels have 800 ha of Jimbour, and Amethyst has all but been shown the door.
"What we liked was the ease of harvest ~ I reckon that Jimbour gives us 100 mm extra clearance to the first pod and that's worth 2 miles per hour (3.2 kmlhour) with our Gleaner R72," Mr Daniels said. "Yes, the Phytophthora resistance may be a bonus in the odd wet year, but we hope to harvest every year and over our big crops the extra speed is money in the bank."
According to Mike Lucy of QDPI, Pitts worth, Jimbour's biggest asset in southern Queensland is still its Phytopthora resistance. "Much of the western wheat country has naturalised burr medic that harbours the disease. Combine this with overland flows that spread infected trash and Phytophthora will always be around," he said.
"Last year some Goondiwindi growers doubled their yields - 5-6 bags (1-1.2t/ha) for Amethyst to 10-12 bags (2.2-2.4t/ha) with Jimbour in the same paddock!"
Lex and Cheryl Nalder, farming 18 km south-east of Coonamble in northern NSW, have been long-term chickpea producers, rotating chickpeas with cereals on their deep chocolate loams ~ 'Kurrajong country' to locals. Amethyst has been their variety of choice and when Ascochyta struck in 1998 or 1999 the Nalders cut back, but stuck with the crop. "It was too valuable to us to give away," Mr Nalder said.
Wider rows make a difference
Howzat's disease profile (Howzat has the best Ascochyta resistance currently available in a desi chickpea variety, but is still classified as moderately susceptible) ~ plus Phytophthora and botrytis resistance equivalent to Jimbouril was a factor in taking on the seed crop, according to Mr Nalder. Even so, "We still gave it the 'package'. Our biggest change has been to go from 15 to 30 cm row spacing and to increase our seeding rate from around 45 to 65 kg/ha.
"In the narrow rows the crop was always wet and seemed to encourage disease. Wider rows give better air flow and the crop seems drier and less disease-prone." The Nalders back up wider rows with seed treatment, careful paddock selection and preventative spraying.
Howzat was grown as a seed crop in 2001 and Mr Nalder had some interesting observations: " Yield-wise, Howzat was about the same as our Amethyst, but the larger seed size made harvesting easy. We got a better sample off the header, but instead of the 30 tonnes of Amethyst in a truckload, we were getting only 29 tonnes of Howzat he said. "It's the yield in the paddock that counts, of course, but with or without disease Howzat growers may be making more trips to the bin."
Sandy Begbie and son Scott Begbie have also been impressed by the larger seed size of Howzat. Chickpea is a relatively new crop on 'Bronte' , 100 km west of Moree, joining the wheat, faba bean, cotton and sorghum grown on the property's deep, cracking grey clay loams.
"Compared to Amethyst, our crop had bold, larger seed," said Mr Begbie. "The marketers will want it and it may also give us an advantage when we deep sow onto moisture."
Mr Lucy agrees. "For deep sowing onto moisture, chickpea is far and away the best winter crop option. We have experience with growers sowing down to 8- 10 inches (200-250 mm) and getting good emergence with both Jimbour and Howzat and their larger seed size certainly helps."
Having the right equipment is important to Mr Begbie at 'Bronte' and the John Deere vacuum seeder used for precision sowing of chickpea, faba bean and cotton is being teamed with a 'Bee Line' satellite navigation system which will pinpoint paddock position to within 2 cm.
"All our chickpeas get a 'program spray' of Mancozeb at 4-6 weeks for Ascochyta. After that we are flexible and re-spray if rain is imminent," he said. "We are using a 24-metre boom and the savings in fungicide and insecticide through accurate tracking will help pay for the 'Bee Line'."
For chickpea growers in the north, Howzat and Jimbour are useful new varieties that, combined with other rotation and management practices, will help to overcome the diseases that have shaken the industry's confidence. Think about the selections for your team and reap the benefits.
Both Howzat and Jimbour are protected under the Plant Breeder's Rights Act 1994 and unauthorised sale of seed of these varieties may be an infringment of the Act. Howzat is marketed by Australian Agricultural Commodities and Jimbour by Mt Tyson Seeds.
Contact: Mr Lex Nalder 02 6822 2564
Mr David Daniels 07 4983 5195
Mr Sandy Begbie 02 6753 1562
Mr Mike Lucy 07 4693 2974