Pulse passion drives area expansion
GroundCover™ Issue: 122 | 02 May 2016 | Author: Alistair Lawson
There is no doubting the passion young Rupanyup, Victoria, grower Ash Teasdale has for pulses. At just 25, Ash is an active part of the family farming business along with his parents Peter and Lynette and brother Brad. They sow half of their 1600-hectare property to wheat and barley and the other half sown to lentils and chickpeas.
For more than 30 years pulse crops have formed a valuable part of the rotation for the Teasdales, starting in the early 1980s when Peter grew field peas for the first time. Following that the Teasdales also grew faba beans, before moving onto chickpeas and, with the advent of flex fronts, lentils.
The Teasdale family has been using no-till, controlled-traffic farming since 2007 and Ash says stubble is a major factor in growing a profitable pulse crop.
“There were some tough years here in the early 2000s, which made growing lentils hard, but we have found seeding in the inter-row into standing stubble to be very beneficial,” Ash says. “Inter-row sowing, GPS and controlled traffic have been massive for us.
“If we didn’t have stubble we probably wouldn’t grow pulses. We find it protects the seedlings in the early growth stages and then later in the season it keeps them upright at harvest, making harvesting a lot easier.
“Nowadays, we pick the best cereal stubble to sow our lentils into. This year it will be barley stubble because it is taller and thicker. Ground cover is almost our first priority when it comes to choosing which paddocks to sow lentils into.”
A typical rotation for the Teasdales is wheat/lentils/barley/chickpeas, with the occasional crop of canola or cereal on cereal.
The Teasdales sow their crops on wide rows of 381 millimetres for wheat, barley and lentils, which doubles to 762mm for chickpeas. The wide rows mean they can spray in-crop between rows using a shielded sprayer to tidy up any troublesome weeds.
At seeding a Gyral Sure Strike bar is used, which is interchangeable between a knifepoint and press wheel or disc configurations. Ash says the discs allow them to dry-sow with minimal soil disturbance, but when their heavy clay soils wet-up, they can change to the knifepoint set-up and be back seeding in a matter of hours.
In 2015, the Teasdales experimented with sowing their lentils early – the first week of May – and chickpeas later in June, so they could sow their wheat at the right time to hit the optimal flowering window.
“That was really successful for us, particularly with the season cutting off the way it did,” Ash says. “It helped the lentils access moisture early so they could actually produce something we could harvest.
“We have found chickpeas to be fairly flexible as to when you can sow them. Dad used to sow them in April, but even sown in June they did alright considering the season.
“Early sowing our lentils is something we will look into again, although it can open us up to frost risk. However, that needs to be balanced against the risk of heat stress as well.”
Since 2012, the Teasdales have exclusively sown PBA Jumbo lentils and have been very impressed with them. Ash says they like the variety’s high-yielding capability but the bigger seed size of PBA Jumbo also makes grading out wild vetch, a problem weed on their farm, slightly easier.
He recalls 2013 as a particularly good year for PBA Jumbo, with ideal conditions meaning it flowered for about a month before one of their paddocks averaged 3.7 tonnes/ha.
With chickpeas, they favour the Genesis 090 variety. They have been growing Genesis lines since 2006 due to their resistance to ascochyta blight; however, they still monitor the crops closely for the disease when podding.
The trying 2015 season in the Wimmera and many other parts of Victoria was well-publicised and for the Teasdales it was no different. The buoyant market for lentils and chickpeas was somewhat of a saving grace, despite the low yields.
“Our lentils averaged about 0.5t/ha and the chickpeas 0.3t/ha,” Ash says. “Price-wise, the lentils averaged about $1300/t. Even at low yields, you still need a lot of barley to compete with prices like that.
“While sowing half of our program to pulses may seem risky, we have found that no-till and controlled traffic have reduced the risk and with the way we are farming now it isn’t any more risky than growing wheat and barley.
“We can store summer rain through effective summer weed control and our water use efficiency is a lot better than it used to be. Despite how tough the season was in 2015, we still managed to harvest everything we sowed. I don’t think that could have been said if we had the same kind of season 10 years ago.”
The strong pulse market is a big driver behind the Teasdales’ expanding pulse area. While not professing to be an expert on grain markets, Ash is optimistic about demand for the crops going forward.
They have on-farm storage with a capacity of 1700t as well as silo bags, meaning they can store grain should prices at harvest drop considerably.
“When chickpea prices were poor we stored them for about three years until the price improved,” Ash says. “When we store pulses we monitor them very closely and make sure we aerate the silos to stop mould.
“After those chickpeas came out of the silo three years later they looked like they had just been harvested.”
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