DAFWA researcher, Martin Harries inspecting albus lupins grown in wide rows (44 cm), which yielded an average 20% less than crops sown on narrow rows (22 cm).
Keep albus lupin on the narrow (rows)
While narrow leaf lupin crops perform well on wider row spacing, recent research shows that albus lupin crops are best kept on narrow rows.
Martin Harries from DAFWA in Geraldton has demonstrated that there is a 20 per cent yield penalty when albus lupin crops are sown at 44 cm spacing compared to sowing at 22 cm, a result that is in line with trial work conducted in 2005 and 2006.
The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) funded research was conducted within the Break Crop Agronomy Project on a trial site at Moonyoonooka, 15 km east of Geraldton as a result of renewed grower interest in the crop.
The resurgence of albus lupin is a result of the 2012 release of Amira, a disease resistant variety, which has seen production of this valuable grain legume rise from near zero in 2013 to 10 thousand tonnes in 2015.
Mr Harries said that Amira is very well adapted to the rich loamy/clay soils of the Chapman Valley in particular, but is popular in heavier textured soils across the wider Geraldton region.
“Albus lupin was widely grown in the mid 1990s but soon disappeared when the fungal disease anthracnose, wiped out the susceptible varieties available at the time,” he said. “In recent years the strong rise in market price, and the release of the anthracnose resistant variety Amira, has seen production increase across Western Australia.”
Pulse Australia responded to the heightened level of interest, gathering together growers, traders, agronomists and Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia researchers in March 2015.
Alan Meldrum, Pulse Australia industry development manager said that the growers who attended were particularly keen to know if sowing in wide rows and at different seeding rates could help reduce the risk of anthracnose and sclerotinia potentially reducing yield or reduce the cost and increase the effectiveness of fungicide treatments.
After the workshop, and in conjunction with Owen Mann from Great Northern Rural Supplies, Mr Harries picked up the agronomy work with a trial that looked at two different row spacing and three seed rate treatments.
“The dry winter conditions meant that fungal diseases did not affect the trial, and we could not test the theory of reduced disease incidence with wider rows. However, the drop in yield from narrow rows to wide rows suggests that you would need a substantial improvement in fungal disease control in wide rows to offset the cost of using a fungicide in narrow rows,” said Mr Harries. “Work is set to continue looking at fungicide options to provide growers with an in-crop option to control anthracnose and sclerotinia.”
Establishment conditions were difficult with only about 20 plants per square metre in the highest seed rate treatment of 120 kg/ha, when the target was 30 plants per square metre. Yield increased with the higher seeding rates, but there was no significant interaction between row spacing and seed rate, so it is not possible to provide a definite recommendation based on this trial alone. Overall, the average yield of the site was an impressive 2.2 t/ha.
“The market for albus lupin is well-defined and, although it is valuable, it is somewhat limited,” said Mr Meldrum. “Albus lupin is strongly sought after as a snack food for North African markets, particularly in Egypt. However, the usual annual demand of about 50 thousand tonnes is also supplied from New South Wales so there is a risk of over-supply, as has occurred in some years.”
“WA has a real freight advantage to reach this market so establishing a critical mass in production and a relatively stable price would assist this small but valuable crop,” he said. “WA growers could comfortably supply 20–25 thousand tonnes annually to this market.”