Why I grow Albus lupins (making money from pulse crops)

Grower Chris Roche says his lupins are a profitable crop ill their own right as well as aiding the rotation.

I STARTED growing lupins to extend my rotation and to see if I could make more money (the previous rotation was a long fallow-wheat-lucerne based rotation). My current rotation is flexible, but is basically lucerne-canola- wheat-lupins-wheat-lucerne.

Lupins come in the second half of the rotation when the economics of going back-to-back with cereals are often not there.

Soil type

The main soil types on our property are sandy clay loam (Kurrajong, Box, Pine) to clay loam (Rosewood, Myall). The pH varies from 5.2 to 7.5 (CaCI). I have grown lupins success-fully over most of these soil types but have not tried them on country that is prone to waterlogging. Lupins will die if they lie in water, so well-drained paddocks are essential.


I have sown from 18 Apri I (2001) to 17 May (2000). I would sow on 18 April again, however not as late as 17 May. My preference is the last week of April to the first week of May.

I sow at 100 kgtha minimum. Despite the large seed, I have discovered they don't like to be sown deep. I sow at 2-4 cm with press wheels straight into the previous wheat stubble. Fertiliser used is 40 kg of MAPtha. I have tried heavier rates and not had a yield response. Lower rates have not been tried.


Lupins will drown if heavy rain is experienced straight after sowing. In 2000, lupins sown on good moisture 3-4 days before 80 mm of rain survived, where lupins sown two days prior to this event all died.

Growing period

Lupins sown in April can grow quite tall. The advantages of this are better weed control and the chance of getting either a higher yield or more 'N' in the ground. The disadvantages are lodging and frost damage.

Sowing early can mean that the crop starts flowering in late July, however lupins will keep flowering until it gets too hot or they run out of moisture. Therefore, if we run into hot weather in August, the lupins sown in late May will not have flowered for very long before they shut down.

Weed control

Lupins are a poor competitor and weeds are not always easy to control.


I spray Simazine at 2 L/ ha minimum directly behind the seeder. This is to get some activation from the damp disturbed soil. I have tried incorporation by sowing (IBS) but this caused banding. If I wait to spray in front of the next rain front, Murphy's Law will cause the front to come across sooner than expected and either I won't get my chemical out in time or the lupins will start to emerge, making it too late to spray.


I have sprayed every lupin crop for grass weeds. Lupins being such a poor competitor, a few oats will set a massive amount of seed. If nothing else, it is cheaper and easier to take them out in lupins than in the following cereal crop. I leave it as late as possible to try to get the later germinating ones.


Saffron thistles can be a problem at harvest but are not a problem during the growing period. There are several control options available here that I have not tried - topping with Gramoxone or CT. I have windrowed and it was a success in both years I tried it. I believe there is about a 5-10 per cent yield advantage over direct-heading depending on the front used. This pays for the extra cost of windrowing.


Lupins are best harvested soon after a shower of rain, as this helps to stop shattering and also stops me from going crazy waiting for wheat to dry. They can be harvested up to a limit of 14 per cent moisture. The other option is to harvest in the middle of the night when there is some dew about.

I have found there is a large difference between the losses if they are harvested with a conventional front compared to a draper front.

In the floods at harvest 2000, the crop stood up well because the stalk is so woody and there was little loss from the pods opening. Lupins are easy to store but be prepared for high price volatility.

The following crop

I have followed lupins with wheat and canola. My worst result is 20 per cent higher yield on lupins-canola than on wheatcanola. The economics on cereals following lupins are better. I believe I grow a better wheat crop following lupins than I do following canola.

As far as giving exact figures, I have never sown half a paddock to wheat and half to lupins to give exact figures. However, knowing what some paddocks will do at home, I believe a better than 50 per cent yield advantage compared to wheat on wheat has been achieved.

The real reason I grow lupins

I have found lupins a profitable crop in their own right.

There is more risk involved in growing them than in growing cereals or canola, so I put in a maximum of 20 per cent of my area to them.

Below is a gross margin taking the average yield from the last three years and using the lowest on-farm price I have received in those years. The price in the last three years has varied from $250/t to $320/t on-farm.

Gross margin calculation
Albus Lupins    
Gross income2.2 t/ha$250/t$550/ha
Direct costs
Seed100 kg/ha$0.35/kg$35/ha
Glyphosate1.2 L/ha$5/L2 applications$12/ha
Garlon0.07 L/ha$60/L2 applications$8.40/ha
Glyphosate0.6 L/ha$5/L$3/ha
Simazine2 L/ha$5.60/L$11.20/ha
Leopard0.25 L/ha$49.44/L$12.36/ha
Bulldock Duo0.25 L/ha$23/L$5.75/ha
Ground spray5 times$5/ha$25/ha
Plane1 time$10/ha$10/ha
Gross margin/ha$334.29/ha

Contact: Mr Chris Roche 02 6848 5328 email csroche@tpg.com.au

This presentation was part o/the Grains Research Update series supported by growers and the Federal Government through the GRDC.