Plan ahead... Over the Moonah by Denys Slee

Barry Jackson and father Ron at Patchewollock in the Victorian Mallee have been growing lupins for about 15 years and they are pretty excited about ‘newcomer’ Moonah.

Barry Jackson said a small area of Moonah was sown in 1999 and extended in 2000 to 140 ha, with a similar area being sown to the staple variety Merrit.

“Yields in 2000 for the two varieties were, on average, the same — about 9 bags an acre,” Barry said.

“But what was impressive about Moonah was its quick establishment and the way it covered the ground.

“This is very important in our mallee country because it reduces the risk of wind erosion causing problems, and also means we have plants that can compete with weeds.

“We have noticed that Moonah grows from 5 cm to 8 cm taller than Merrit which helps with harvesting and this year, if the season is favourable, we will be sowing 250 ha of Moonah and about 40 ha of Merrit.”

Important break crop

Lupins are an important disease break crop in the five-year rotation on the property — a lupin, wheat, lupin, barley and pasture system — and the legume increased soil nitrogen levels for following cereals.

Lupins are also a valuable cash crop in their own right with costs being covered if 3 bags/acre (0.61 t/ha) were produced.

In this 300 mm annual rainfall country, the Jacksons have found that lupin yields are enhanced when:

  • seed for sowing is tested to ensure it is free from cucumber mosaic virus
  • crops are sown with the opening rains — late April to mid-May being the preferred sowing window
  • 50 kg/ha of phosphorus fertiliser is applied pre-sowing on stubble ground and 80 kg/ha on pasture
  • Simazine at 1 litre/ha is used in front of the seeder to control broadleaf weeds and, if particular weeds such as hog weed and silver grass are present, Treflan at 1 litre/ha is also used
  • lupins are inoculated with rhizobia bacteria and sown at 100 kg/ha.

Barry Jackson says Moonah flowers slightly earlier than Merrit and has a shorter flowering period.

“Pests haven’t been a problem in our lupins — we have had to spray only once in 15 years for heliothis, for example,” he said.

“I think the lupin pods, unlike field peas, are too hard for the insects.”

According to Ashley Corbett of the Mallee Research Station, Walpeup, lupins are proven performers in the region.

“They perform exceptionally well when sown in April and early May with sufficient soil moisture,” he said.

“The risk involved in growing lupins in the Mallee is far less than it was in the past with improved varieties and the use of higher seeding rates increasing their yield and productivity. Recent trials have shown that grain yields can be improved by up to 0.5 t/ha if plant densities are increased from 30 to 60 plants/m^ if sowing is delayed.”

He said Moonah’s grain yields in trials had been, on average, 10 per cent greater than Merrit and he confirmed its ability to achieve rapid early growth. It was also moderately resistant to Anthracnose which would provide good insurance against this fungal disease should it enter Victoria.

It was one of a number of newer varieties suited to the Mallee with others including Quilinock, Wonga, Tanjil and Belara. Each had different agronomic characteristics giving growers varietal choices to suit their particular operations.

Program 2.4.3 Contact: Mr Barry Jackson 03 5084 1248