Research into the profitable production of faba bean crops on the acidic soils of southern NSW suggests growers can boost production and profitability by adhering to a mid to late April sowing window and, under ideal weather conditions, extending back to mid-May.
Co-funded by Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI), research has found that time of sowing is substantially more important than variety selection.
Sowing within the April 20 to May 15 window in southern NSW, and preferably aiming for the first half of this window particularly in western areas, was shown to maximise yields in crops that produced six to nine tonnes per hectare dry matter (DM) with harvest indexes of 30 to 35 per cent.
The results stem from variety sowing time trials conducted by NSW DPI on acidic red-brown soils (pHCa 4.6 to 5.2) across southern NSW, for the past three seasons.
NSW DPI pulse research agronomist, Mark Richards, said despite these soil types not being ideal for faba bean growth and development, excellent yields were achieved, indicating wide-scale potential for cultivation across southern NSW.
Sowing-time trials conducted at Wagga Wagga, Junee Reefs and Lockhart in 2015 supported previous work showing the importance of sowing within the recommended sowing window.
A delay in sowing from May 1 until May 18 at Wagga Wagga resulted in a yield decline of 25 per cent. Delayed sowing from April 16 until May 6 at Junee Reefs resulted in a yield decline of 45 per cent, and from April 23 to May 13 at Lockhart resulted in a yield decline of 26 per cent.
“Crops have successfully been grown when sown up to a week earlier than April 20, however this increases the risk of yield loss from both frost damage and disease due to increased biomass from favourable winter and spring growing conditions,” Mr Richards said.
“To the contrary, sowing later than the sowing window can expose the slower-maturing crop to moisture and heat stress at the end of the season resulting in shorter plants, lower height of bottom pods, harvest difficulties, reduced biomass; and reduced number of flowering nodes, fewer pods and low yields.”
Faba bean is showing promise not just as a profitable crop in its own right but as a pulse break crop in southern NSW cropping sequences.
It is a competitive, erect, vigorous crop with high dry matter production and grain yield potential. At the same time, faba bean appears slightly more frost hardy and more tolerant of heavy soils than other pulses, fixes large amounts of nitrogen, has non-shattering pods and is well suited to mechanical harvest.
More information on faba bean production, from pre-sowing planning through to harvest management and marketing, is available in the online GRDC faba bean GrowNotes module by following this link.
Bernadette York, NSW DPI media officer
0427 773 785
Sarah Jeffrey, Senior Consultant Cox Inall Communications
0418 152 859