Northern chickpea record production

Posted in Agronomy alert on Dec 26, 2015

Luke Skerman overseeing the dispatch of another truckload of prime desi chickpeas destined most likely for the Indian subcontinent where they are fetching excellent returns.

Northern chickpea record production

by Cindy Benjamin

Grain marketer and Pulse Australia chairman, Peter Wilson, couldn’t be happier with the outlook for chickpeas at the end of the 2015 season.

“Prices are very sound at over $800 a tonne, going into a good deep market on the Indian subcontinent,” he says. “Buyers in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan are looking for Australian desi chickpeas and we expect the demand to remain solid.”

Mr Wilson says pulses are competing well for planting area and that the market could well support another increase in yield and area in Australia. “I believe there is room in the market for one million plus tonnes per year out from our industry,” he says. “This year the desi production almost reached this target, even in what was a hard finish for some.”

One farming family revelling in the results of a good season are the Skermans of Kupunn, south-west of Dalby. Daniel Skerman, his father Ross and cousin Luke planted 380 ha of chickpea into a near full profile of moisture following about 100 mm of rain in late April.

The crop was planted in the first week of June, which could be considered late however the Skermans took into account the increased risk of late frosts in a year with a strong El Nino influence. Chickpeas are most susceptible to frost damage at flowering and podding so planting later means the crop is less likely to be in this reproductive phase when a late frosts in September is still possible.

“We have some fields that are more prone to phytophthora root rot so we decided to plant the more resistant variety, PBA HatTrick, in these paddocks and Kyabra in the less risky fields,” says Daniel. “We ended up with a 50:50 split of the two varieties and both performed very well for us in a season with almost no in-crop rain.”

PBA HatTrick is considered moderately resistant (MR) to phytophthora root rot compared to Kyabra’s moderately susceptible (MS) status. “Phytophthora can challenge susceptible chickpea varieties even in drier years,” says Daniel.

The Skermans continue to grow Kyabra primarily for its plant architecture, which makes for easy harvesting, and the solid yield and premium prices available for Kyabra grain in the marketplace. PBA Boundary is not an option on the heavy clay soils so Daniel is looking forward to the release of a promising new variety in Pulse Breeding Australia’s chickpea breeding program that is expected to have increased levels of resistance to both phytophthora root rot and ascochyta blight and is well suited to their farming environment.

The Skermans applied 30 kg/ha compound starter fertiliser with zinc and sulfur and a bio-chemical fertiliser catalyst in the trench with the water-injection inoculated seed. They achieved the industry best practice plant population of 25–30 plants per square metre and good weed control with post plant pre-emergent herbicide application.

While PBA HatTrick is rated MR for ascochyta blight, and required no fungicide applications, Kyabra is susceptible to the disease and the Skermans applied preventative fungicide three times during the season, prior to each likely rain event.

Daniel, who is also a part-time crop advisor, uses the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries economic threshold calculator to determine if heliothis numbers are at an economically damaging level and warrant the application of an insecticide spray.

This season they were rewarded with an overall average yield of 2.65 t/ha, well over the industry average, and around 3 t/ha off their long fallow country, which provided more stored moisture. This result was typical of many growers across Queensland and northern NSW, giving rise to a total production of 960 thousand tonnes of desi chickpea, according to Pulse Australia estimates and well up on last year’s production.

Chickpea and mungbean crops are part of the Skerman farming system, along with cereals and cotton, contributing to the profitability of their business and the fertility of their soil.

“Pulse are such an efficient source of protein, requiring minimal processing before they are eaten and drawing all of their nitrogen requirement from the atmosphere,” says Mr Wilson. “The role these crops play in sustainable production and human health and well-being are the focal point of the 2016 International Year of Pulses campaign in Australia and around the world.”

Northern industry development manager Paul McIntosh, or 0429 566 198.

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