Grains Research and Development

Date: 29.10.2014

New cultivars and narrow rows boost Darling Downs chickpea yields

Author: Michael Thomson

Key Points

  • Narrow row spacings delivered significantly higher yields than wide rows in chickpea trials on the Darling Downs.
  • The results were consistent across varieties, although new cultivars outperformed current commercial lines.
  • Narrow row spacings also improved water use efficiency and nitrogen fixation, but plant populations did not influence the results.
  • New cultivars and a switch to narrower row spacings could dramatically bolster the place of chickpeas in northern cropping rotations.

The legume crop traditionally only yields an average of 1.2t/ha in dryland broadacre conditions, but small-plot trials on the Darling Downs using an advanced breeding have achieved 4.7t/ha when planted at 0.25m and 0.5m row spacings.

Caption: Queensland Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) senior extension agronomist Kerry McKenzie.

And yields of 4.5t/ha and 4.4t/ha were achieved using the commercially available varieties PBA HatTrick and PBA Boundary respectively, both on 0.25m spacings.

  

Queensland Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) senior extension agronomist Kerry McKenzie said the 2013 trial results were encouraging, but were still to be validated through a second year of field testing currently underway.

“It won’t be until after harvest of the 2014 trials and analysis of results that a firm recommendation can be made in relation to current varieties and management strategies,” Mr McKenzie said.

“In general though, the trials so far have shown that changes in agronomy can significantly affect yield of chickpeas, and more specifically, increasing row spacing may decrease yields even in a dry season.

“Last year was a dry year and industry thoughts had been that in those dry years wider row spacings should improve yields because you’re storing that soil moisture for later in the season, but we don’t seem to be seeing that in pulse crops.

“Whether it’s a different root structure or physiology than cereals, the narrow row spacings still provided the better yields in a reasonably tough year last year.”

Table 1. Grain yield at Dalby – cultivar x row spacing

Row spacing (m)

Cultivar

Grain yield

0.25

CICA0912

4.7 a

0.50

CICA0912

4.7 a

0.25

PBA HatTrick

4.5 a

0.25

PBA Boundary

4.4 a

1.00

CICA0912

3.9 b

0.50

PBA HatTrick

3.9 b

0.50

PBA Boundary

3.9 b

1.00

PBA Boundary

3.5 c

1.00

PBA HatTrick

3.2 c

The research is funded through the Grains Research and Development Corporation’s Qld Pulse Agronomy Initiative, which involves collaboration between DAFF and the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI).

  

The program is seeking to improve adoption of legumes within Queensland crop rotations by identifying measures which can both boost yields and improve the reliability of pulse crop performance.

Mr McKenzie said industry consultation was undertaken at the outset of the project to understand why farmer aren’t planting pulses in larger areas, with the responses forming the basis for the initial trial focus on row spacings and plant populations in chickpeas. The project is also assessing agronomic factors for faba beans, including time of planting and row spacing, and the summer pulses of mung beans, soy beans and peanuts.

“Despite the potential environmental and economic benefits they offer, the adoption of winter and summer pulse crops in Queensland is just eight per cent and four per cent of total cropping area respectively – much less than what is required to keep grain cropping systems profitable in the long term,” Mr McKenzie said. 

“To increase the share of pulses in the total cropping area, strategies are required to enable growers to more consistently realise the potential productivity and profitability of pulse cultivars in their farming systems.”

Chickpea is the most popular of the winter pulse crop options in Queensland, with yields ranging from 0.5t/ha to 2t/ha depending on the season. 

The research team estimates that a modest 10% increase in yield would result in a $20 to $25 increase in gross margin (based on a $200/ha gross margin). Over a winter pulse area of 125,000ha, such an increase in production would be valued at $2.5 to $3 million per annum. 

The trials conducted at Dalby and Goondiwindi last year measured the performance of three varieties – PBA HatTrick, PBA Boundary and the advanced breeding line CICA0912 – when planted on three row spacing’s (0.25m, 0.50m and 1.00m) and at three plant densities (20, 30 and 40 plants/m2).

Mr McKenzie said the most consistently significant response was to row spacing and cultivar.

“There was no significant difference in yield between any of the cultivars at the 0.25m spacing,” he said. “There were also no significant yield differences due to plant populations.”

The trials have also been overlaid with a number of other research programs to maximise the information gleaned about a range of agronomic influences, including nitrogen fixation,  water use efficiency, and varieties.

And the inclusion of the advanced cultivar CICA0912 will ensure growers have a package of information available when it is released commercially, expected to be in 2016.

Water use efficiency was measured as an indicator of the potential suitability of the crop in a farming system – very high water use efficiencies were recorded, with figures approaching those generally accepted as satisfactory for cereal crops.

“Narrow row-spacing again produced the highest WUE and CICA0912 produced significantly greater WUE than the other cultivars,” Mr McKenzie said.

Table 2. Row spacing effect on water use efficiency on grain yield

Row Spacing (m)

Cultivar

WUE Grain Yield (kg/mm/ha)

0.25

CICA0912

17.74

0.50

CICA0912

17.55

0.25

PBA HatTrick

17.21

0.25

PBA Boundary

15.46

1.00

CICA0912

15.2

0.50

PBA HatTrick

15.04

0.50

PBA Boundary

14.75

1.00

PBA Boundary

13.28

1.00

PBA HatTrick

12.52

Although the figures for each measure were higher at the Dalby plots under better growing conditions, the findings were consistent with those at the Goondiwindi trial site.

“In general, the yields obtained at this site were higher than the surrounding commercial yields,” Mr McKenzie said. “Narrow row spacing again increased the yield components, and again there was no significant difference between any of the cultivars across the treatments.”

Although there were no differences in nitrogen fixation between the three varieties on trial, the narrow row spacings also delivered significantly better results for nitrogen derived from the atmosphere and total amount of N fixed, particularly at the Dalby site.

“Up to 59 kg N/ha remained at the Dalby site when chickpeas were grown on 0.25m rows but only 23 kg N/ha from the 1.0 m row spacing,” Mr McKenzie said. “At Goondiwindi, the net N balance ranged from an increase of 6kg N/ha to a net removal of 6.4 kg N/ha as row spacing increased from 0.25m to 1.0m.”

Table 3. Reduction in N fixation and total amount of N fixed in chickpea (mean across 3 genotypes) as row spacing in the field increases

 

% Ndfa (nitrogen derived from the atmosphere)

Total Crop N Fixed (kg/ha)

Row Spacing (m)

Dalby

Goondiwindi

Dalby

Goondiwindi

0.25

61.0

39.2

187.3

62.8

0.5

55.8

36.1

161.9

48.0

1.0

47.6

36.3

122.5

42.0

Previous research has shown that as a legume crop’s demand for N increases, so does the N fixation by that crop, but Mr McKenzie said the row spacing effect on N fixation could not simply be explained by higher plant N demand as all crops were at the same plant population density of 30 plants/m2.

“In the narrow rows we observed that total N on a hectare basis was higher due to higher plant biomass, but also the proportion of the N derived from the atmosphere was higher in the narrow rows,” he said.

“This has raised a number of questions as to why this may be – one possibility is that it could be due to a temperature difference in the narrow rows versus the wider rows so we have included temperature loggers in this year’s plots to measure temperatures both at soil and canopy levels.”

The 2014 trial work also include a fourth row spacing of 75cm, as well as plots with lower populations of just 10 plants per square metre (the industry standard is between 20 and 30 plants/metre2).

“There’s also still questions over what effect  narrow row spacings may have on disease control and insects because we did have a dry season last year with very low disease pressure, and this season is proving the same again,” Mr McKenzie said.

“So while the results to date have certainly got farmers thinking about the potential yield benefits of shifting to narrower rows, there are still some questions that we are trying to answer over whether narrow row spacings will always be better.”

The Queensland Pulse Agronomy trials will continue until to June 2018. More information is available at www.grdc.com.au.

ENDS

Contact Details

For Interviews

Kerry McKenzie, Senior Extension Agronomist, Qld Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF)

07 4688 1211, 0477 723 713

kerry.mckenzie@daff.qld.gov.au

Contact

Michael Thomson, Senior Consultant, Cox Inall Communications

07 4927 0805, 0408 819 666

michaelt@coxinall.com.au

GRDC Project Code UQ00067

Region North