Trait opens doors for lentils

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Lentil researcher Larn McMurray in front of SARDI's metribuzin-tolerant lentils, compared  with PBA Flash in the field at Riverton, SA.

PHOTO: SARDI

PBA Hurricane XT has taken the pulse industry by storm, as growers embrace this lentil variety’s herbicide tolerance

When breeding work began on lentils in the mid-1990s, there was a list of issues that needed to be addressed to make the crop more suitable for Australian growing conditions. Knowing which to prioritise was difficult, but weed control soon rose to the top for the small but rapidly growing industry.

The varieties available to growers had largely come from traditional lentil-growing regions where hand weeding was common – they had no tolerance for herbicides and struggled with soil herbicide residues. As a result, growers embracing lentils often cut some commonly used herbicides from their crop rotations, to the detriment of their ability to control weeds.

“We were heading on a downward spiral. We were reducing herbicides on cereals to avoid herbicide residues, and we had very limited safe options in our pulses, so we were just increasing the weed seedbank,” says Larn McMurray of the South Australia Research and Development Institute (SARDI), a division of Primary Industries and Regions SA.

As part of a GRDC-funded project, SARDI has spent five years researching ways to improve weed management in pulses through herbicide tolerance. The research dovetails with earlier work by Pulse Breeding Australia (PBA) and Agriculture Victoria that resulted in the 2013 release of the PBA Hurricane XT lentil variety.

PBA Hurricane XT is the second lentil variety with improved tolerance to Group B herbicides and offers growers significant improvement in weed-control options. The small lentil variety’s tolerance of soil residues has also opened up opportunities to grow lentils in areas previously considered unsuitable, particularly drier regions where some residues can last three years or longer.

“It’s now the dominant Australian lentil variety within three years of its release,” Mr McMurray says. “It’s had a very high level of uptake, which highlights the importance for growers of improved herbicide tolerance and weed control in lentils.”

Results point to future

It had been difficult to gauge the full extent of the residue problems for lentils until a tolerant variety such as PBA Hurricane XTA became available. Lentils’ interactions with herbicides were not previously well understood, and it wasn’t until researchers could see how a tolerant variety compared that they could quantify the potential.

“Now we’ve made some progress with herbicide tolerance, that’s opened up more opportunities – it’s made us aware of what else we can do,” Mr McMurray says.

Tolerance to Group B herbicides has been a big improvement, but it’s just the beginning. In its current phase of research, SARDI is working on adding tolerance to other chemistries. If this research is successful, these new traits could add significant flexibility and longevity to weed-control options in lentils.

“We’re looking at Group C technology, which is commonly used in pulses, but at the moment regularly causes damage to them,” Mr McMurray says.

Group C tolerance is now being incorporated into the elite material of the PBA breeding program, which is supported by the GRDC, including into PBA Hurricane XT. “We’re also exploring alternative technologies like Group I, which doesn’t have a lot of research history, but could offer big returns if it pays off.

“We’re looking at combining those tolerances – to Groups B, C and I – and taking pulses from where they had zero options to having some really strong weed-control options, and can add strength to the rotation system because of their greater ability to handle residues.” 

Promising pulse

The SARDI project is exploring herbicide tolerance in several pulse crops. One of the most promising is a Group B tolerant faba bean variety, which is undergoing advanced field trials this year and could result in commercial release in two or three years. If successful, it will be the first herbicide-tolerant variety for the crop, which has no post-emergent herbicide options for broadleaf weed control. Further along the pipeline is Group B and Group I tolerance for chickpeas and faba beans.

On-farm benefits

PBA Hurricane XT has improved tolerance to Group B herbicides and offers growers significant improvement in weed-control options. It is now the dominant Australian lentil variety, within just three years of its release.

 

More information:

Larn McMurray,

larn.mcmurray@sa.gov.au

Pulse Breeding Australia (PBA)

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Lentils may find a home in WA

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Herbicide tolerance delivers options

GRDC Project Code DAS00131

Region South