Australian Pulse Industry

Pulses are relative new-comers in Australian cropping systems. Commercial production began in Kingaroy, Queensland with the production of navy beans to help feed the US troops nutritious and familiar food while they were based in Queensland during World War II. According to Bean Growers Australia, the first navy bean trials took place in the 1940s. Prior to this time many pulse crops were used as green manure and fodder crops because of the beneficial effect these crops have on the soil and their value as livestock feed. Since then the industry has grown significantly and pulses are being increasingly recognised for their role in sustainable and profitable production systems. While pulses are grown in all three major cropping regions in Australia, specific crops are better adapted to some regions.

The first fully domesticated Australian sweet lupin was developed in the late 1960s in Western Australia. Chickpea were first grown commercially near Goondiwindi, Queensland in the early 1970s. Mungbean was also first grown in Queensland in the 1970s. Commercial production of faba bean began in South Australia in the early 1980s and the lentil industry began in Victoria in the early 1990s.

Nationally, pulses average just under 10 per cent of the total area planted to crop however in favourable production areas they can occupy as much as 25% of the total crop area. When grown in rotation with cereals and oilseeds, pulses provide good returns, improve the soil condition, provide a break for important cereal diseases and reduce costs through their ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen for their own use and contributing additional nutrients to the following crop.

In 1990 total production amounted to only 1.3 million tonnes of pulses. The highest level of production to date occurred in 2005–06 when Australian growers produced over 2.5 million tonnes of pulse grain. In 2015, 1.8 million ha of pulse crops produced 2.2 million t of grain, worth A$1.2 billion in exports. The potential for the pulse crop in Australia, assuming all constraints are overcome, is to increase its current size to 4.2 million tonnes, with a commodity value of A$1.504 billion and a farm system benefit of A$538 million – a total of over A$2 billion.

Industry overview

Value chain

The pulse industry in Australia has a mature value chain that provides stability and quality assurance from paddock to plate.

Australian farmers are increasingly incorporating pulse crops into their farming systems. Extensive information about growing each crop and the potential benefits within a cropping rotation can be found in the pulse crops section of this website.

Pulse Australia is a founding partner in Pulse Breeding Australia (PBA), an extensive network of plant breeders from all state governments and funded by the GRDC, dedicated to the development and testing of new pulse varieties.

The GRDC also funds researchers and grower groups as they investigate new agronomy practices and develop new food products using Australian grain.

Pulse Australia works with local, state and national bodies with an interest in the expansion and development of the Australian industry, including the oversight of the industry's grain standards.

A large number of grain marketing and trading businesses operate in Australia to facilitate both export shipments and domestic trade. There are also significant investments in pulse grain storage and logistics, processing and packaging.

The Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council plays an important role in the consumers, health care professionals and the food industry to promote the benefits of pulses (grain legumes) in a balanced diet.