Chinchilla grower Ian Wolski and his agronomist, Landmark’s Nik Fritz are pleased to be back in the mungbean game. Photo: P McIntosh
Mungbeans back in the rotation
by Cindy Benjamin
Like many growers, Ian Wolski was ‘bitten’ by mungbeans in the 1980s and as a result had steered clear of growing them for the last 25 years.
Lured by the high prices on offer last year Ian decided to give mungbeans another go and was much happier with the result. He has followed up this year with another success, so mungbeans are now more likely to be considered when planning his crop rotation in the future.
“In the 1980s we grew Berkin mungbeans three years in a row,” said Ian. “The first year they did alright but the next two crops were a write-off and we were not prepared to grow them again.”
“Things have changed a lot since then though with new varieties and also with us gaining access to irrigation water through the Queensland Gas Company’s Chinchilla Beneficial Use Scheme.”
Farming 12 km south of Chinchilla near the Condamine River, Ian and Michelle have just harvested 88 ha of Jade-AU mungbean, grown under a combination of pivot and flood irrigation and dryland conditions.
In late October 2015 the Chinchilla area was hit with a hail storm that caused millions of dollars damage to crops and properties around the town, including the Wolski’s chickpea and barley crops, putting a fair amount of barley seed on the ground.
This prompted Ian and his agronomist Nik Fritz from Landmark, Chinchilla to look for ways to deal with the potential problem of volunteer barley.
They decided that double cropping into mungbean would be a good way to deal with the barley volunteers and to take advantage of the record high prices for good quality mungbean. In mid-December they planted and were fortunate to receive good in-crop rain that kept the dryland crop performing at a similar level to the irrigated crops.
The Wolski’s took up area and tonnage contracts with their pulse marketer, Associated Grain. “We had 75 tonne fixed price contract that provided us with a known price, and a hectare contract for the balance we produced the area, removing the price risk from the equation,” said Ian.
“Last year we averaged 1.2 t/ha and this year we are very happy to have achieved over 1.7 t/ha, averaged across both irrigated and dryland crops.”
Ian and Michelle are primarily cotton growers with barley, soybean and chickpea being their main rotation crops. They have grown chickpeas since 1983 and so are well aware of the benefits of including pulses in their rotation and Ian expects that mungbean will feature more often in the future cropping program at ‘Heimat’.
“The quickness of the crop is its main benefit for us,” said Ian. “We can make use of summer rains and supplement with irrigation if necessary and be fairly well assured of a good return.”
The other significant benefit over other summer crop options, particularly sorghum, is the ability to use different herbicide mode of action groups to control summer weeds. Ian uses both pre-emergent and in-crop treatments that have been more successful with these hard to control grasses.
Although Ian does not factor in a residual nitrogen benefit from mungbean, the crop’s ability to fulfil its own nitrogen requirement reduces the input costs for the crop.
The flood irrigated area is sown at a rate of 25 kg seed per ha on 1 metre row spacing while the pivot and dryland crops are sown at a slightly lighter rate on 30 cm row spacing.
This season’s crop only required supplementary irrigation, which Ian applied pre-planting to ensure good germination and to incorporate the pre-emergent herbicide and other 18 mm applied 4–5 weeks later.
Mirids and helicoverpa were the main pests to manage this season but only required two sprays for mirids and one for grubs.
Nik was very pleased with the crop’s performance and reckoned it was one of the best mungbean crops in the region this year.
Pulse Australia northern development manager, Paul McIntosh said the consistently strong demand for Australian mungbean in the Indian subcontinent and northern Asia particularly were driving the record high prices and the rapid sale of all stocks.
“The future looks bright for mungbean in the northern region and it is more important than ever for growers, researchers and Pulse Australia to investigate the best agronomic practice for the crop,” he said. “With this in mind Pulse Australia is supporting an online survey to gather feedback from growers and agronomists to determine the level of uptake of research outcomes for row width, plant population and sowing date.”
“We also want to gather feedback that will help direct the next phase of the GRDC funded Northern Pulse Agronomy project.”
To participate in the short survey please click here.
More information: www.pulseaus.com.au