Green lentils could offer potential diversification and marketing opportunities for pulse growers in the southern cropping region.
While Australian lentil production is dominated by red lentils, growing green lentil crops could enable some growers to spread their risks, according to South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) pulse researcher Larn McMurray. SARDI is the research arm of Primary Industries and Regions SA (PIRSA).
Mr McMurray, whose pulse-related research is supported by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), says significant green lentil markets exist internationally, along with a small domestic market.
“The Australian green lentil industry is currently in its infancy but its existence may allow some growers to spread their production and marketing risks, particularly if production trends and seasonal forces combine in Canada to help produce large worldwide red lentil stocks,” said Mr McMurray, who recently returned from GRDC-supported studies in Canada.
“Canada traditionally has produced more green lentils than red but in recent years has trended dramatically to greater production of the latter.”
Speaking at a GRDC grains research Update at Kadina in South Australia, Mr McMurray said green lentils were generally sold and consumed whole, with the seed coat intact.
“Markets prefer large uniform seed size and good green colour retention (lack of bleaching) and an absence of seed blemishes such as disease and wrinkled seed coat.
“There are also some smaller markets for medium and small sized green lentils.”
According to Mr McMurray, achieving the combination of required characteristics has traditionally been difficult to achieve under Australian conditions, particularly as initial varieties were only medium in size and susceptible to disease.
“Recent breeding programs by the GRDC-supported Pulse Breeding Australia (PBA) has resulted in the release of PBA Giant (large) and PBA Greenfield (medium) that will help growers produce a more marketable product,” he said.
Mr McMurray said before entering into green lentil production, growers needed to consider a number of production, storage and marketing issues, including:
- Good disease and insect control and a timely harvest are required, as visual appearance of seed is very important. Production in environments where there is a lower risk of climatic events affecting seed quality issues, such as wrinkled seed coat, bleachng or delayed harvest, will also aid in producing a marketable product.
- Production is small and new in Australia, and therefore it is important to understand marketing opportunities prior to deciding to grow green lentils.
- Capability for on-farm storage is also important. Separation from red lentils on-farm is vital.
- A larger plant type with increased early vigour and often later maturity than red lentils means green lentil crops have earlier canopy closure, are more prone to lodging and more susceptible to early onset of botrytis grey mould. Mr McMurray suggests growers consider a slight delay in sowing time and a reduction in seeding rate if sowing in favourable production environments.
- No green lentil has the XT herbicide tolerance technology, but their larger plant size is more competitive with weeds and larger seed size is well suited to the post-harvest removal of smaller weed seeds.
More information on green lentil varieties and their agronomic packages is available at the Pulse Breeding Australia website.
Larn McMurray, SARDI
08 8842 6265
Sharon Watt, Porter Novelli
Caption: Growing green lentil crops could enable some growers to spread their risks, according to South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) pulse researcher Larn McMurray.