By Bernie Reppel
Research that aims to explain disappointing chickpea yields in south-west Queensland and north-west New South Wales will focus on planting dates, row spacings, crop maturity and local temperature differences this winter season.
Goondiwindi consultant Michael Castor and Associates and scientists from CSIRO/APSRU are collaborating on the GRDC-supported project "refinement of best management practices for chickpea and mungbean in north-western farming systems".
Results of the three-year project - one of the first in the northern grains region to be led by private sector consultants - are to form the basis of revised advice on Best Management Practice, and accredited courses for agronomists, agribusiness and farmers.
Project leader Paul Castor sums up the problem when he says chickpea growers in these western areas often struggle to convert impressive, bushy crops into grain in the bin.
“Excessive early leaf growth appears to be leaving insufficient soil moisture reserves for grain filling,” Mr Castor says.
“Under moisture-stress late in the season, chickpea crops fail to fill their top pods and grain size is reduced in lower pods. Low soil-moisture levels at planting, poor in-crop rain and subsoil constraints can all have impacts on moisture supply to the crop.
“We are keen to explore our ability to manage vegetative growth, to increase the supply of soil water for grain filling.”
Mr Castor says the project team believes the biggest factor involved is temperature, as warm conditions around planting time can promote vigorous early growth. Then later in the season, cold nights can cause pod and flower losses, further encouraging vegetative growth.
“We are also interested in the interaction of planting date and row spacing with this temperature effect.”
Mr Castor says delaying planting until late May and early June is likely to better manage temperature effects on chickpea development.
“Later planting than that, however, increases the risks of short plants, poor harvestability and yields reduced by rising spring temperatures.
“Last season"s trials indicated that as the team delayed planting, it needed to reduce row widths to 50 centimetres or less. We will repeat these trials this season.”
For more information:
Paul Castor, 07 4671 2045
GRDC Research code: MCP 00002, program 2