20/20 rule for pulses — latest primer by John Sykes, Col Mullen and Di Carpenter, NSW Agriculture

Take-home message

Currently the area grown to pulses in central NSW is 38,000 ha. The area that should be grown to sustain rotations is 280,000 ha (including lucerne) or 20 per cent of the cropping area. We believe production can be increased reliably to this level if:

  • pulses are selected to match soil types, and
  • available technology is used in a more professional management approach.

Over the next decade there will remain an onus on agronomists and growers to assess individual risk. No more than 20 per cent of the annual cropping area should be allocated to pulses on an individual farm. This is the 20/20 rule for on-farm/total area.

Growers should progress towards this goal by increasing their experience every year. This will also ensure the rotational benefits — disease break, nitrogen build-up and use of alternative herbicides will be ongoing and annually contribute to overall profit. Such an approach should be maintained until improved disease resistance is available in new varieties.

Matching the pulse to soil type

All pulses are best sown following a cereal crop where soil nitrogen levels are low. Ideally they should be no-tilled into standing cereal stubble using wide rows. Paddocks should be at least 500 metres away from stubble of the same pulse crop.

Narrow-leaf lupins

  • adapted to sandy soils, sandy clay loam and loam soils
  • very tolerant of soil acidity and high levels of aluminium in the soil
  • require reasonably well-drained soils
  • susceptible to Phytophthora root rot (sudden death disease) which can be brought on by periods of waterlogging during winter.

Albus lupins

  • adapted to better soils with good drainage — sandy loam and loam soils
  • very sensitive to poor drainage and waterlogging
  • not adapted to sodic soils
  • tolerant of only moderate acidity, 8-10 per cent exchangeable aluminium
  • susceptible to Phytophthora root rot (sudden death disease) and Pleiochaeta root rot, especially after short periods of waterlogging.

Field peas

  • can tolerate most subsoil sodicity up to 6 ESP
  • widely adapted to most soil types — acid sandy soils —> loam —> clay
  • more tolerant of waterlogging than lupins.

Faba beans

  • adapted to heavy self-mulching clay soils
  • heavy friable clays are suitable, provided subsoil sodicity is less than 4 ESP
  • most tolerant pulse crop to waterlogging
  • unsuccessful on acid sandy loam soils or soils with acid subsoil.


  • adapted to most soils with pH > 5.4 (CaCl₂) and good drainage — red loam, sandy clay loam and heavier self-mulching clay loam soils
  • most reliable on the red sand loam and well-drained clay loam soils
  • soils must have good drainage to counteract the potential of Phytophthora root rot. Do not sow on tight hard-setting soils.
Pulse crop soil requirements on central NSW soils
CropSoil typeSoil pH (CaCl₂)Exch A1% rangeDrainage tolerance (1-5)**Sodicity (ESP)
lupin - narrow-leafsandy - loams4.2 mintoleranttolerant (2)nil
lupin - albus sandy - loams - clay loams4.6 minup to 10%sensitive (2)nil
field peasandy - loams - clays4.6 minup to 5-10%tolerant (3)<6
chickpealoams - self-mulching clay loams5.4 minnilvery sensitive (1)nil
faba beanloams - clay loams5.4 minniltolerant (4)<4 (subsoil)
canola*loams - clay loams4.8 min0-5%tolerant (4)<3 (subsoil)
lucerne*loams - clay loams5.0 minnilsensitive - tolerant (1-3)dependenton variety<3 (subsoil)

* Non-pulse comparison

** No hard pans and good drainage (no puddles after 24 hrs from a 50 mm rain event)

Management issues

VarietiesField peas
  • Sugar pod is a new and essential characteristic of field peas which dramatically reduces the likelihood of shattering. It is a huge step forward in field peas and the first variety to be released is KaspaPBR logo, jointly released by NSW Agriculture and Agriculture Victoria. It will be available for commercial production in 2003.
  • Powdery mildew resistance in a shorter variety, MuktaPBR logo, is now available, which makes field peas a realistic option for growers in central NSW.

Narrow-leaf lupins

  • Phomopsis resistance makes grazing lupin stubbles simpler with no risk of sheep being affected by lupinosis. JindaleePBR logo, released by NSW Agriculture, has good resistance and has a yield advantage over Merrit and WongaPBR logo (however, it has no resistance to Anthracnose).
  • Short season varieties are important for large areas of the cropping zone. Quilinock offers growers in lower-rainfall districts a lupin that can yield in tougher spring conditions.


  • Ascochyta resistance is a varietal characteristic essential to reduce the risk of growing chickpeas. HowzatPBR logo, released by NSW Agriculture, has the best resistance of commercial varieties, along with good seed quality and yield.
  • Phytophthora resistance is important in northern areas where this disease is more significant than Ascochyta blight. JimbourPBR logo, released by Queensland DPI, has. improved Phytophthora resistance. HowzatPBR logo has moderate resistance (similar to BarwonPBR logo).

See Pulse Point 15: Pulse Varieties Southern & Central NSW 2001-2002.

Paddock selection
  • High prices often dictate which crop will be grown. Take care with paddock selection and don't let prices make you choose the wrong pulse for the paddock.
  • A couple of dry winters, particularly in southern NSW, have allowed lupins to be grown successfully on paddocks where they would normally fail. Don't be complacent about matching the pulse to the paddock. Adhere to rotations (no more than one lupin in five years) and soil type limitations (no lupins on poorly drained soils).
Seed quality
  • Germination is rarely tested on farmer-kept seed lots but can result in crop failure. Guidelines for testing are available on the NSW Agriculture Internet site.

See Pulse Point 1: Quality of Sowing Seed and Pulse Point 2: Germination Testing.

  • Attention to detail is the answer with inoculation. Take care with mixing — use clean containers.
Seed rate
  • New faba beans and field peas are being released with a recommended seed rate. This is important when plant type and seed size change dramatically.
  • Always use target plant population rather than kg/ha, and take into account seed size and germination percentage.

See Pulse Point 3: Calculating Your Seeding Rate and Winter Crop Variety Sowing Guide.

  • Raptor® is a new broad-spectrum post-emergent herbicide registered for use in field pea to control radish, and provides new opportunities to include field peas in rotations.
  • Balance® is a herbicide for broadleaf weed control registered for use in chickpeas. It targets a range of broadleaf weeds and is likely to be used in mixtures with pre-emergent herbicides.
  • All pre-emergent herbicides, e.g. Simazine, Balance® and Metribuzin, are best applied immediately after sowing to a level seed bed. In retained stubbles, levelling is critical to avoid concentrating chemical into furrows after rainfall. Metribuzin has been used more in recent years to broaden the spectrum of weed control.
  • Take care with application. Maintain boom spray (especially nozzles) and decontaminate thoroughly. Understand the herbicide so that the best results are achieved.

See Weed Control in Winter Crops and chemical labels.

  • RoundupMax® is now registered for crop-topping ryegrass in field peas and faba beans. This is a useful management tool for reducing the seed bank of ryegrass, especially herbicideresistant plants. RoundupCT is available for use in other crops under permit. Check new permit before use.
Disease management
  • Understanding the strategies is an essential part of pulse crop production. Strategy guidelines are or will shortly be available for each crop. The emphasis is on early detection and early fungicide application. For example, powdery mildew can easily be controlled in field peas if detected early.

See Pulse Point 7: Reducing Disease Risk, Pulse Point 14: Powdery Mildew in Field Peas and Winter Crop Variety Sowing Guide.

Harvest management
  • Assess each paddock individually and plan ahead. Consider windrowing, crop-topping, or desiccation as weed management and/or harvest aid tools.
  • In most years the cost of windrowing or desiccation is recovered through better timing of harvest (reducing risk of crops standing ripe and being weather-affected), reduced losses (shattering, cutter bar), increased header efficiency and/or better quality.

Program 2 Contact: Mr John Sykes 02 6881 1282 email john.sykes@agric.nsw.gov.au

Region North, South, West