GROWERS looking to maximise nitrogen fixes and improve crop rotations could look towards the latest faba bean variety on the market, PBA Nasma.
The variety was released at the annual University of Sydney Plant Breeding Institute field day at Narrabri last week.
It's the first variety released since PBA Warda in 2012.
Narrabri-based University of Sydney plant breeder Kedar Adhikari said Nasma was a much improved version of Warda, improving crop quality while maintaining a solid disease package.
"The biggest improvement is that Nasma can yield three to five per cent more than Warda, in both irrigated and dryland operations," Dr Adhikari said.
"It does that with no compromise in the disease package, so farmers are sure to be happy about that."
Seed size, a major issue for growers when marketing faba beans, has also increased.
"A lot of growers have some concerns that the older varieties have a small seed and others, like Cairo, have a much more variable size," Dr Adhikari said.
"Because of the small and variable seed size they're unable to sell into the human consumption market.
"PBA Warda was an improvement on the other varieties but still not large enough to be acceptable for that market.
"The Nasma seed is 15 per cent bigger than Warda, so people would have no problem selling this in the human consumption market."
The bigger seed may lead to adjustments to machinery before planting.
"Being a bigger seed it may choke the seed tube and there may be a blockage, but growers will just have to watch out for that," Dr Adhikari said.
The response to the new variety has been good, with farmers eager to get seed for 2016 winter planting.
Dr Adhikari said the crop's soil benefits and ease of growing had led to faba beans becoming more popular each year.
"When they grow faba beans they can get a big crop of wheat afterwards without having to use too much nitrogen or fertiliser."
There's also less input, including spraying, and they're easy to grow."
"Faba beans will do well in both irrigated and dryland operations as long as they have enough moisture at planting," Dr Adhikari said.
- RUTH CASKEY
High prices in the past few years have been a bonus for growers.
"Three years ago faba beans were less than $300 a tonne but in the last few years the prices have been very good and some farmers sold this year's crop for up to $450/tonne."