Pulse crops – identifying critical growth stages to inform timing of inputs

Take home messages

  • Approaches and terminology used to growth stage pulse crops varies across the industry. However, correct growth stage identification is critical for effective and safe application of fungicides, herbicides and insecticides in-season.
  • The National Pulse Agronomy project is developing unified growth stage keys for chickpea, lentil, faba bean and lupin. The adoption of this unified system will support consistent and accurate identification of critical development stages of pulse crops.
  • A preliminary version of the unified growth stage keys will be presented, including how to identify the critical stages: emergence, leaf development, branching, budding, flowering and, pod and grain development.


Consistent and accurate growth staging of pulse crops remains a challenge for growers, agronomists, breeders, and researchers in Australia due to the lack of a unified approach. Across the pulse industry, various terminology is used, that is, true leaf stage, node stage, or above-ground node stage, end of flowering or start of podding. This variation in approach has implications on-farm, particularly regarding application of agronomic inputs (pesticides, herbicides and nutrition).

The development of pulses has traditionally been separated into two phases: vegetative and reproductive, with their indeterminate growth habit creating unique challenges for clearly identifying specific growth stages and informing decisions on in-season management. In an indeterminate crop, it is possible to find flowers, immature pods and mature pods on a plant at the same time, while the plant is still growing (increasing in nodes).

As part of the National Pulse Agronomy project (NaPA), unified growth stage keys are being developed for pulses which will provide guidance to accurately describe the critical development stages of pulse crops: emergence, leaf development, branching, budding, flowering, grain development and physiological maturity. The keys are being developed through a national approach and are defining the principal growth stages of pulses crops and evaluating the sensitivity of each stage to environmental stress.

The adoption of a unified growth stage key will provide consistent terminology which can be used by growers, agronomists, and researchers. Applying these principles on-farm will support consistent and accurate timing of disease and herbicide management and improve our understanding of the interaction between growth stage and damage from abiotic (frost/heat) or biotic stress events.

This presentation will focus on progress towards a unified growth staging key for lentil and faba bean which can also be applied to other pulse crops. A focus of the session will be gathering feedback on the preliminary growth stage system to incorporate into ongoing development ahead of a publication in early 2025.


The research undertaken as part of this project is made possible by the significant contributions of growers through both trial cooperation and the support of the GRDC, the authors would like to thank them for their continued support. The authors greatly acknowledge the contribution by the NaPA project team and the contributing organisations; CSIRO, NSW DPI, SARDI, DPIRD, University of Queensland and Agriculture Victoria.

Useful resources

Lentil Southern region – GrowNotes 

Faba bean Southern region – GrowNotes

Contact details

Audrey Delahunty
Cnr Eleventh St and Koorlong Ave, Irymple VIC 3498
0427 580 131

GRDC Project Code: CSP2107-011RTX,