Horticulture

New legumes on trial

By Country News

Is adzuki bean a potential crop for northern Victoria?

Agriculture Victoria researchers are assessing the viability of growing alternative legume crops within the southern region as winter and summer crop options, as part of a new Grains Research and Development Corporation and Agriculture Victoria investment.

Program leader James Nuttall said adapted legume crop options were limited within southern region farming systems, particularly relating to summer crop options.

‘‘Despite the significant breeding gains made with the major grain legumes including lentil, chickpea, field pea, faba bean and lupin, further opportunities exist for alternative legumes in the system,’’ Dr Nuttall said.

‘‘New legume crops have the potential to provide greater flexibility as both grain and fodder options, fix additional nitrogen and, in the case of summer crops, provide opportunity to utilise rainfall in late spring and summer.’’

This year trials have been established at a number of locations, including Dookie.

The legume crops being tested include adzuki bean, black gram, black turtle bean, borlotti bean, burgundy bean, cowpea, guar bean, kidney bean, lab lab, lathyrus, messina, moth bean, mungbean, narbon bean, navy bean, pigeon pea and soybean.

Many of these crops are traditionally suited to sub-tropical growing conditions.

Dr Nuttall said a key consideration to the success of crops tested would be their suitability to the rainfall pattern and temperature in the environment.

The program is also tapping into the Australian Grains Genebank at Horsham, a resource for conserving and supplying genetically diverse germplasm for crop species where 812 different legume lines are being tested.

Audrey Delahunty, a research agronomist working on the program, said the AGG had provided a supply of germplasm to test for genetic adaptation of these alternative legumes to the southern region.

‘‘In testing a broad range of germplasm from the AGG, within the southern Australia environment, this will also help inform breeding programs of the key traits and genetic potential available to maximise adaptation of alternative legume crops within this region and systems context,’’ Ms Delahunty said.

The program also aims to better understand the suitability of a range of alternative legumes to the southern region, taking into consideration agronomy, markets and profitability.

GRDC southern agronomy and farming systems manager Andrew Etherton said the findings of the research presented a huge opportunity for growers to include an additional crop into rotations that would benefit their entire farming system.

Key issues under investigation in this research include optimal time of sowing and opportunities and herbicide options.

‘‘Ultimately, we are aiming to identify crops and management strategies that can expand the range of legumes available to the grains industry helping to build soil nitrogen, utilise out-of-season rainfall and improve farm profitability,’’ Dr Nuttall said.