Profitable pulses for the Murray Plains
The Profitable Pulses trial was funded by grower levies through the SA Grain Industry Trust (SAGIT). Chickpeas and lentils had traditionally not been grown in the Murray Plains area and yet they are a valuable and profitable break crop in many other parts of South Australia. More commonly grown break crops in the area prior to 2018 were vetch and peas because of the grazing option and their suitability for heavy soils respectively. However, making these a profitable contributor to the rotation has long been a challenge for Murray Plains growers.
In 2018, the three-year, SAGIT-funded project ‘Profitable Pulses for the Murray Plains’ commenced.
The objective of this project was for Murray Plains grain growers to be able to:
- Select appropriate break crops that enhance the productivity and sustainability of their crop sequences.
- Increase their understanding about the agronomic requirements to successfully grow legumes in the area.
- Ensure pulses are a profitable contributor to rotations and the farm business overall.
Replicated field trials were run over three growing seasons (2018-19 to 2020-21) and were spread across the Murray Plains region.
The potential for high value pulses to be used by low rainfall farmers was demonstrated through the SAGIT-funded project Adopting Profitable Crop Sequences in the South Australian Mallee where gross margins for lentils and chickpea averaged more than $600/ha over three seasons. High yield and price variability during this project highlighted the need for a diversity of breaks crops to be incorporated into low rainfall farming systems.
Seeing these results in the Mallee prompted interest from growers in the Murray Plains to better understand how to choose the most profitable break crop for their situation and then how to best manage that crop, which led Murray Plains Farmers to apply to SAGIT in early 2018.