New lentils to keep growers competitive

Photo of a lentil flower in blossom

LENTIL PRODUCTION has taken off in Australia with 266,000 tonnes produced in 2001, up from a mere 1,000 tonnes a decade ago, with a 60 per cent increase expected in the short term.

But according to Supermarket to Asia's Global Supermarket magazine, strong competition from world market leader Canada means Australia must develop new lentil varieties if it is to maintain and expand its market share.

In response to market demand, new lentils are on the horizon, developed by the GRDC-supported Coordinated Improvement Program for Australian Lentils (CIPAL).

CIPAL aims to release high-quality red, green, French green, Spanish brown and zero tannin lentil varieties which are adapted to the diverse growing environments, resistant to CHICKPEAS Ascochyta blight and botrytis grey mould and suitable for machine harvesting.

Varieties resistant to the serious exotic diseases anthracnose, rust and fusarium wilt are also being developed. Among the improved varieties released from the program are Aldinga, Cassab, Cobber, Digger, Matilda, Northfield and Nugget.

CIPAL Coordinator Michael Materne said developing disease-resistant varieties was a high priority, in order to increase production, reduce risk and costs for growers, and improve quality.

Advanced breeding lines with resistance to Ascochyta blight and botrytis grey mould have performed well under severe disease pressure on the Yorke Peninsula in SA and in the southern Wimmera of Victoria.

Although coordinated from the Victorian Institute of Dryland Agriculture (VIDA), the project is a national breeding program involving key researchers and breeding sites in WA, SA, NSW and Tasmania.

Major Australian lentil exporter, The Lentil Company, is exporting Cobber, Matilda and Digger to more than 30 countries under licence from VIDA.

Australia's reputation has given us an edge on the world market, but producing high-quality varieties more tolerant to our particular agronomic and climatic conditions remains the key.

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Contact: Mr Michael Materne 0353622312