Lentils now an all Australian crop

Mr Michael Materne - testing sowing date and blight

New variety release

According to the coordinator of the National Lentil Improvement Program, Michael Materne, lentil production is now occurring in all Australian states — albeit for the first time, and on a small scale, in Queensland and Tasmania.

Mr Materne, from Agriculture Victoria, Horsham, said the area sown to lentils had more than tripled in each of the past three years — from about 2,400 hectares in 1994 to 56,000 in 1997.

"The high gross margins are a prime reason for this — last year lentils realised $400/t on-farm," he said. "And yields have been surprisingly good, even in dry years.

"In the Wimmera average yields are about 2-2.5 t/ha and in the southern Mallee, 1.5-2 t/ha."

Mr Materne, whose program is supported by growers through the GRDC, said pulse growers could look forward to a suite of further improved lentil varieties.

Examples include:

  • ILL61 - a replacement for Matilda with much larger, good-coloured seed and better Ascochyta resistance. It is being bulked for tender in 1998.
  • ILL7180 - a Digger replacement with 13 per cent higher yields in trials and improved Ascochyta resistance. Scheduled for commercial release in 1998.
  • ILL6002 - an early-flowering, large-seeded green lentil targeted for production in Queensland.
  • IC128/85 - a large-seeded, long-season lentil for Tasmania.
  • ILL7200 - identified as a replacement for Digger in WA where it has outyielded that variety by 10 per cent.
  • ILL590 - has performed well in WA, especially in the drier areas. Both ILL590 and ILL7200 are scheduled for commercial release in 1998.

Mr Materne sees alkaline well-drained soils in Victoria and SA as the areas where lentil production is most likely to expand.

Lentils - when to sow to avoid Ascochyta

Ascochyta blight is a fungal disease which can reduce yield and discolour lentil seed, reducing quality and economic value. Seed infected with it also transmits the disease to the following crop. Experiments in 1995 and 1996 tested the effect of sowing dates on lentil yields and seed infection by the blight.

Results show that the resistant variety Northfield and the late maturing variety Laird can be sown from May to June without significant risk of infection. The mid-season varieties Aldinga, Cobber, Digger and Matilda should be sown in June to reduce seed infection levels and to maximise yields.

Contact: Mr Michael Materne 03 5362 2111

Region North