Mallee cropping: judge the whole package

Gum Tree

Mallee farmers have been urged to judge alternative crops not on their monetary returns compared to a cereal, but on their value to a rotation.

Research at the Mallee Research Station, Walpeup, Victoria, has shown that greater profits are achievable from more intensive cropping when legume crops are included in the rotation because they reduce soil-borne diseases and weed problems and increase soil nitrogen levels.

"These profits are contingent on good management and access to additional working capital. The results cannot be extrapolated, however, to the northern Mallee where seasonal rainfall averages less than 220 mm," said project scientist Ivan Mock.

Mr Mock said most current legume / pulse varieties could not tolerate poor years and their performance had been a strong disincentive to adoption by farmers.

However, cropping options are expanding with examples including:

  • Excell field peas - an early-flowering and maturing variety which yielded much better than Dundale in the Mallee and elsewhere. The new field pea variety Paravic was also higher-yielding than Dundale, and seed of it and of Excell will be available in the year 2000
  • the Tanami variety of narbon beans represented a multi-purpose legume adapted to low-rainfall areas and suited to grain production, fodder production and green manuring. Seed will be available in the year 2001
  • significant seed supplies of Lath-BC, the first lathyrus variety released for Australia, are now available, while another lathyrus Chalus had been released in WA. Both are multi-purpose varieties
  • Moonah lupins are outyielding the staple Merrit variety by an average 12 per cent in the Mallee, and have other attributes, too
  • Morava vetch is a new variety with superior rust resistance to Languedoc and Blanchefleur.

Mr Mock said that, apart from legumes, new oilseed varieties with better adaptation to lower-rainfall areas are appearing. These include several canolas and mustard varieties.

Program 3.5.2

Contact: Mr Ivan Mock 03 5094 1203