Early-harvested pulses now have somewhere to go

Early harvested Jupiter peas (left) show attractive colour and quality compared with bleached and cracked peas from late harvest (right).

Growers will be able to realise the full profit potential of their pulse crops by harvesting them early, thanks to GRDC-supported research by the CSIRO.

Research at the Stored Grains Laboratory confirmed that earlyharvested pulses have superior yield and quality. But early harvests often exceed current storage receival limits for moisture. And although the pulses mature earlier than cereals, poor harvesting conditions often mean that growers leave the crop standing while they harvest a valuable crop of wheat or barley. As the Cinderella pulses stand waiting, they lose quality and can become bleached and brittle.

But this doesn't have to be so, according to the researchers. Growers could achieve up to 30 per cent increase in profits from earlier harvesting and storage.

"Our laboratory work has shown that legumes can be successfully stored at higher moisture contents than the presently accepted limits with appropriate precautions. We now need to move our trials from the laboratory into the silo," said laboratory head Jonathon Banks.

Field trials in collaboration with NSW Agriculture at Wagga showed that machine harvesting of field peas gave the highest yields from an early harvest at a moisture content of 15 per cent. A crop harvested 15 days later showed a drop in yield of up to 30 per cent due to shattering and increased breakage and bleaching. Lupin trials showed losses of up to 27 per cent from delayed harvesting. Windrowing or desiccating a crop at a moisture content around 30-50 per cent provided a high yield and good quality seed.

"If growers can get their legumes off first, they are winning twice — they get the quality from the legume and the value from the cereal," said Dr Banks.

15 per cent moisture can be OK

Receival limits of 12-13 per cent have deterred growers from taking their legume crops off early. "We now know that storage at 15 per cent is OK for longish times — say up to nine months with well-controlled aeration. This also helps keep the temperature more uniform," said researcher Julie Cassells.

Subprogram 1.8.1 Contact: Dr Jane Wright