Mungbeans show mainstay potential
New genetic diversity drawn from the Australian mungbean germplasm collection is recasting the summer crop as a more profitable sequencing option and a potential mainstay in northern farming systems.
The release of a large-seeded mungbean variety at the Australian Summer Grains Conference in June 2013, will represent the next step-change in the crop’s development as part of the GRDC-supported Australian mungbean breeding program.
This new mungbean line, which will be named after a gemstone, is expected to replace its large-seeded predecessor, Crystal, as the variety grown by the majority of northern mungbean growers.
It is also set to increase both the productivity and ultimately the profitability of Australian mungbean production by 10 per cent, making it a more attractive cropping option.
Five years of data collected from more than 30 on-farm trials from northern New South Wales to central Queensland show the new variety has at least a 10 per cent yield advantage over Crystal.
Research through the breeding program, run by the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), further shows it is more resistant to tan spot and powdery mildew than Crystal.
These comparisons are important because the 20 per cent yield gain that Crystal provided on all other varieties when it was released six years ago has seen the national mungbean crop expand from about 40,000 hectares in 2006 to 70,000ha in 2011 and 2012. While this places the crop’s total area ahead of soybeans and sunflowers, most Australian growers tend to grow mungbeans over a small percentage of their properties as a break crop.
The new variety, created by Queensland DAFF senior scientist Dr Merrill Ryan when she crossed two Australian mungbean lines in 2004, could help shift grower perceptions of the crop from a sequencing option to a summer mainstay.
“Giving growers a variety that is likely to produce high yields in seasonal conditions when diseases are prevalent could improve the overall consistency of national production,” Dr Ryan says.
It is also expected to maintain the high quality of Australian mungbeans, which are visually assessed for size, shape and colour in the country’s main export markets, India and China.
Dalby-based pulse processor and Australian Mungbean Association (AMA) president Todd Jorgensen says the 10 per cent yield gain could earn growers an extra $63 from every hectare seeded with the new variety. This is based on an average price of $700 a tonne for Crystal mungbeans in 2012.
As a possible replacement for Crystal, which is produced by more than 90 per cent of Australian mungbean growers, the AMA is bulking-up enough seed to sow the new variety over 50,000ha in 2013, Mr Jorgensen says.
However, southern Queensland grower Justin Commens, who was Mungbean Grower of the Year in 2010, says the variety is an important development in terms of crop diversity.
Mr Commens says sowing more than one variety across the mungbean cropping area helps to minimise both seasonal and marketing risks in his family’s 950ha grain and cotton operation in the Nandi district, 30 kilometres south-west of Dalby.
For example, the Commens family has grown the large-seeded varieties Crystal and Satin 2 and the small-seeded variety Green Diamond in the past three years.
This variety diversity is part of a strategy that shields the family’s operation from risk in providing access to both high-quality sprouting and high-volume processing markets. Good seasonal conditions with low disease pressure are needed to meet the quality standards of sprouting markets in Asia, where mungbeans are widely regarded as a vegetable.
Notwithstanding strong commodity prices, however, Mr Commens says they mostly grow mungbeans for their agronomic benefits as a break crop and because it allows them to vary their herbicide use.
As a result, the family only grows mungbeans over a small percentage of its cropping program because of the comparative security provided by other higher yielding summer crops, such as sorghum.
Northern NSW grower Xavier Martin, who was 2011 Mungbean Grower of the Year, sees mungbeans as a lucrative summer mainstay on his property in the Mullaley district, 50km south-west of Gunnedah.
Among a minority of large-scale mungbean producers in Australia, Mr Martin has been growing the crop over about 1000ha for the past three years in the southern part of the established mungbean production area.
Mr Martin says mungbean variety improvements through the national breeding program, such as White Gold and Crystal, have largely led to its place as “the principal summer crop” in his farming system.
For the Martin family, major benefits of broadacre mungbean cropping are relatively high prices, ranging between $700/t and $1000/t, a 60 per cent saving on fertiliser inputs compared with cereals and a 10 per cent yield gain in wheat following mungbeans.
Mr Martin plans to grow the new variety over 100ha in 2013-14 to determine whether it might partially or completely replace Crystal, which is the main variety produced on his property.
Dr Merrill Ryan,
07 4660 3610;
07 4660 3613;
0418 823 523,
Justin Commens, 0429 633 546,
0428 255 736,
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GRDC Project Code DAQ00128
Region North, Overseas