Meanwhile in the northern grains region... advisers mull over profit-challenged pulses

Price volatility, uncertain markets and general crop management all pose challenges for grower adoption of more rotational pulse crops in northern New South Wales and Queensland.

A recent pulse workshop held during a GRDC Research Update seminar for advisers in Goondiwindi was told these factors all had to be overcome for the pulse industry to really grow in the northern region.

NSW Agriculture agronomist Tony Dale said the industry needed to lift its sights beyond the basics of rotations, to a whole range of concepts not often considered. Like making the right decisions on opportunity cropping and what to plant. Chickpea prices were "up and down like yo-yos" and he knew of a grower who realised "zero dollars" from faba beans in 1998 and $974/ha in 1999, with a 4.2 t/ha crop.

Pulse Australia's program manager for crop support, John Slatter, said current management was somewhat ad hoc and the pulse industry still had many problems to solve in terms of planting rates, configurations and the like.

Also, "we need to look at things like staggered deliveries to provide a consistent supply," he said. "In the stockfeed markets for protein and energy, we are always going to be in competition with soybean, canola and cottonseed meals. There is always the opportunity of export sales for human consumption, but quality is the challenge, given our weather conditions."

He believed the "considerable" local market for protein could absorb increasing pulse production in the north; already 10,000 tonnes of faba beans had found a market and there would be a ready stockfeed market for 12,000-16,000 hectares of field pea and lupins. Growers could look for $160/t delivered for feed-quality faba beans and $200 delivered for human consumption ($260/t in 1999).

Program 2.4.2 Contact: Mr Tony Dale 02 6742 9240

Region North