Get it right - pulse, paddock, time by Bernie Reppel

Central NSW: refining ways to get a wider variety of pulses into the rotation .

WITH THEIR variable soil types, graingrowers in central NSW need the wide range of pulse crops they now have - albus and narrow-leaf lupins, chick and field peas, and faba beans.

Each of them requires a specific situation and success depends on picking !Tieright pulse for each paddock environment.

The message from NSW Agriculture district agronomist Col Mullen to a Grains Research Adviser Update in Dubbo earlier this year was that this range of pulse options - wider than that available to growers further north - allows "the right pulse to be sown in the right paddock at the right time".

He told advisers that - for good, reliable results - they needed to consider the specific requirements in soil, place in rotations and sowing times of each of the crops mentioned.

"Unfortunately it has often been the opposite in central NSW, with the wrong pulse in the wrong paddock at the wrong time, leading to disappointing results," he said.

Tick off this list

After matching pulse crop to soil type, considerations should include:

  • sowing in the right cropping sequence, preferably directly after a cereal, in a paddock with low levels of soil nitrogen and disease
  • keeping as far away as possible from stubble of the same crop and never planting pulse on pulse, even after a drought
  • ideally no-tilling into standing stubble, allowing maximum nitrogen fixation by the pulse and helping to minimise disease caused by spore splash and aphid activity
  • ensuring low broadleaf weed pressure by reducing the seed bank in previous crops and avoiding problem weed paddocks and those with harmful herbicide residues, particularly on alkaline soils
  • avoiding soils with a significant hard pan, which can cause waterlogging problems and disease like Phytophthora root rot in lupins and chickpeas.

But that's not all. 'Then you have to select the best available variety and sow it at the right time, which is very critical," Mr Mullen said.

"Yield mapping is important, as are observation and soil testing to identify paddock variability and problem areas."

Farmer experience

Gilgandra farmer James Hassall told the Dubbo Update that his experiences with 60 ha of chickpeas in the extremely tough growing environment of 2002 supported Mr Mullen's emphasis on the need for yield mapping, observation and soil testing.

The paddock had half a profile of moisture at sowing and received 57 mm of in-crop rainfall, all of it in falls of less than 10 mm. The growing season was extremely cold, with only 12 frost-free nights over the three months between sowing and the end of August and a final frost on 2 October.

His average yield of 0.33 t/ha over the 60 ha - varying significantly in soil texture and water-holding capacity was probably within expectations in the circumstances, but yield mapping ranged from an unharvestable zero through 165 kg/ha to 983 kg/ha.

Comparing the chickpea yield map to previous years of wheat and canola showed areas of the paddock where yields of canola and chickpea were significantly lower than wheat, possibly influenced by the underlying soil chemistry.

Contact: Mr Col Mullen 02 6881 1276 Mr James Hassall 02 6848 8214

Region National, North, South, West