Agronomy packages take on northern pulse challenge

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A two-year program is developing agronomy packages to help overcome northern growers’ hesitation in increasing pulses in their rotations

The GRDC-funded Northern Pulse Agronomy Initiative is developing agronomy packages for new chickpea, faba bean, mungbean, soybean and peanut varieties bred for the northern grains region.

Photo of pulse crops

Reducing row spacing lifts chickpea yields by 20%

Northern pulse targets

Winter pulses - 15% of cropping area

Summer pulses -10% of cropping area

Pulse break crops offer rotational and economic benefits, but adoption has been low in the north because of concerns about unreliable yield, grain quality and inconsistent market price.

The Northern Pulse Agronomy Initiative is counteracting this by supporting adoption of pulse crops to try to lift plantings from the current eight per cent of the cropping area for winter pulses and four per cent for summer pulses to 15 per cent and 10 per cent respectively.

The project trials, managed from the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry research facilities at Toowoomba, Kingaroy, Goondiwindi and Emerald, involve:

  • identifying the agronomic constraints that are limiting productivity of commercially relevant pulse cultivars;
  • developing varietal and agronomic management packages to close the gap between potential and harvested yield; and
  • quantifying relative nitrogen contribution from cultivar and management practices.


Eighteen months into the two-year program, the trials have confirmed yield advantages of up to 20 per cent from reduced row spacing in chickpeas. In favourable rainfall environments, 25-centimetre row spacing performed better than 50cm.

The pre-release line chickpea CICA 0912 performed better than current commercial varieties in narrow row spacing due to rapid canopy closure and higher water use efficiency, particularly during seed filling.

Although nitrogen (N) uptake was not affected by row spacing, the narrow rows increased N contribution through increased biomass production per unit ground area.

A significant GxExM (genotype x environment x management) interaction for yield was evident in the Darling Downs for faba beans, suggesting scope for significant yield benefits by optimising row spacing and planting time. Preliminary trials showed reducing row spacing increased faba bean yield significantly (up to 80 per cent), particularly in an early-planted crop.

A record yield of 4.7 tonnes per hectare was harvested for chickpeas in reduced row spacing treatments in favourable rainfall environment, illustrating the crop’s yield potential. Narrow row spacing also increased symbiotic N fixation in both summer and winter pulse crops.

In the next phase of the project, the yield advantage of narrow row configurations will be further assessed in a wider range of environments. Promising treatments that are identified will be trialled in small plots in diverse production environments.

At selected locations the row spacing treatments will be tested in combination with subsoil fertilisation treatments, especially phosphorus and potassium, to investigate scope for further reducing the yield gap. Some innovative options involving biopolymers – polymers produced by living organisms – will also be tested to improve the reliability of spring mungbeans.

More information:

Rao C N Rachaputi, Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation,


Knowledge sharing drives pulse expansion


Break crops could hold key to tapping soil phosphorus reserves

GRDC Project Code DAN00171, UQ00067

Region North