Fresh start for chickpea industry

Cartoon of a couple in bed discussing the virtues of chickpeas as an aphrodisiac

A NUMBER of new kabuli and desi chickpea lines, moderately resistant to Ascochyta blight, will be available to growers in southeastern Australia by 2004.

In trials conducted at the Victorian Institute for Dryland Agriculture at Horsham, the best of the new lines suffered yield losses of less than 10 per cent when unprotected from Ascochyta blight. This compares with the total wipeout of the current standard varieties Lasseter and BumperPBR logo

A strategic four-spray program saw losses in the new lines drop to insignificant levels. By comparison, yield losses in Lasseter and BumperPBR logo remained at 98 and 8S per cent respectively.

The new lines were selected from Syrian and Indian imports and have been developed as part of the National Chickpea Improvement Program, supported by growers and the Federal Government through the GRDC.

Grain size and quality, while acceptable, are not yet up to the standard of BumperPBR logo or Lasseter and future breeding work will concentrate on these aspects. Six new desi and four kabuli types were released for commercialisation recently. Seed multiplication over the next two years should ensure that large quantities of seed are available for sowing in 2004.

Four-spray program test

Trials at Horsham ranked the new lines for resistancc to Ascochyta blight and tested their performance under a strategic fourspray protection program and a fortnightly spraying program. Assuming a score of 9 as being very susceptible, all of the new kabuli lines were ranked at 3 or 4, while the desi types destined for release were ranked at 4 or 6.

Of the current varieties, only HowzatPBR logo is ranked at 6 with BumperPBR logo and Lasseter ranked at 9.

Kevin Meredith, Chickpea Technical Officer, said that the most resistant of the new lines yielded well without any fungicide protection but that grain quality would probably benefit from an application of fungicide during podding. He said that, to ensure the production of top-quality grain, these new lines would still probably require strategic protection with fungicides but that the improved resistance of the new lines reduced the likelihood of yield loss. Often it's not possible to apply a fungicide at the optimal time and these lines are a significant step towards the goal of reliable crop production.

Gross margin comparisons

Probably the most significant aspect of the trial work was the comparison of gross margins betwcen the new lines and current commercial varieties. In the Wimmera where the new desi lines were compared with HowzatPBR logo and TysonPBR logo, Howzat emerged as the most profitable of the current varieties but was consistently outperformed in returns by some of the new lines. Of the kabuli types on trial, Kaniva was significantly outperformed by all of the new lines.

In the Mallee again only HowzatPBR logo compared with the new desi lines and all of the new kabulis outperformed Kaniva.