A raft of cropping advantages are on the horizon for grain growers in the southern region’s high rainfall zone, thanks to pulse varieties that are more profitable and offer greater weed control options.
Increasing soil nitrogen levels won’t be the only advantage of the latest pulses, with the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) supporting Pulse Breeding Australia’s development of new varieties aimed at giving growers a viable third rotation on top of cereals and oilseeds.
Victorian Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) Researcher Jason Brand said trial sites at Westmere in south west Victoria had proved new and upcoming pulse varieties offered more than just a nitrogen bonus for high rainfall zone growers.
“We’ve been putting a lot of effort into the high rainfall zone as part of the current pulse breeding project over the last four years, particularly focusing on key crops like beans and peas,” he said.
“With the increase in prices, in beans particularly, and our markets in Egypt, there has been more opportunities to continue that research.
“We’re seeing some really significant improvements in yield coming through from new varieties, but we’re also learning a lot more about disease management and weed management in pulse crops too, and we’re learning more about how to generally manage pulse crop from row spacings through to stubble management.
“The biggest benefit that southern region growers will see as they include a pulse in their system is additional nitrogen – you’re just getting free nitrogen out of your pulse crop. On top of that, you’re opening up a different opportunity for weed management.”
New field pea varieties offer greater flexibility for growers, especially where weed control is concerned.
Forage and crop-topping are two key weed control tactics that field peas offer. While crop topping could be effective for late-sown crops planted in May, yield loss was higher for crops sown later, in July.
Dr Brand said that while growers and advisers needed to be mindful of growth stages to ensure desiccants were not applied when seeds were too young, optimum application promised to give growers an edge over problem weeds. New field pea varieties are also bred to serve as effective forage crops, giving a second option for growers to tackle weeds.
“There’s been several new varieties of field peas released, and something that’s really exciting for the industry, particularly in terms of weed management and creating different options, is the forage field peas,” Dr Brand said.
“Last year we released a variety called PBA Hayman, which many growers are well aware of. It’s a very late maturing type and specific for forage, so you wouldn’t ever grow it for grain.
“A new variety we have is PBA Coogee, which potentially can be used for grain or forage. You won’t be able to use it for both in the one year, but growers will be able to make a decision as the season progresses. If it’s a season where you've got weeds out of control, or frost affects the crop, you can potentially turn the crop into a forage crop rather than taking it through to grain.
“On top of that, we have new varieties, like PBA Wharton, with improvements in grain yield, as well as being earlier maturing. These will give the opportunity to replace a variety, like Kaspa, with a slightly earlier maturing line with similar yields, but you’re then able to use it for crop topping and managing ryegrass, which is a key issue in the southern region.”
While field peas promise more effective management options, higher yielding faba bean varieties could tempt high rainfall zone growers to cash in on increasingly lucrative markets while boosting their nitrogen levels.
With new-to-market varieties like PBA Rana and in-development breeds yielding up to 1.49 tonnes/hectare higher than conventional varieties in the south west Victorian trials, faba beans could be a more common cash crop in the southern region.
“The breeder has given us access to several new lines that we’re testing specifically down here, as well as in other regions across south eastern Australia,” Dr Brand said.
“There are a couple of new lines there that in 2012 had yields 30 per cent or more above conventional varieties like Farah and Nura. Those two new lines will be released in 2015 and available to growers, so you’ll hear more about them in 2014.
“Now that we’re getting yields that are high enough, you’re dealing with a highly profitable crop. Beans, based on current prices, are certainly comparable to crops like canola in terms of profitability. That’s a good bottom line for growers.”
Variety brochures are available for the new pulse varieties available for sowing in 2014. These packages are a compilation of extensive agronomic and disease management projects undertaken by pulse agronomy and pathology research projects which are funded by the GRDC in conjunction with the PBA partner agencies, combined with yield data from variety trials conducted by both PBA and National Variety Trials (NVT). Pulse Australia has been integral in compiling and producing the brochures which are available via the PBA website at www.grdc.com.au/pba. New PBA faba bean and field pea varieties are available through the breeder’s commercialising partner Seednet.
Caption: PBA Coogee is one of the new breed of pulses, designed to be more practical and profitable for grain growers.
Jason Brand, Vic DEPI
03 5362 2341 or 0409 357 076
Tristan Price, Porter Novelli
03 9289 9555
GRDC Project Code