Dry season beats chickpea trial

Dry season beats chickpea trial

Cropping
Disappointment: Farm manager John Stevenson from Lockhart tested chickpeas for their suitability for cropping across Warakirri's Orange Park farm. However, dry conditions meant he did not harvest the crop. Photo: Nicole Baxter GRDC GroundCover Issue 137

Disappointment: Farm manager John Stevenson from Lockhart tested chickpeas for their suitability for cropping across Warakirri's Orange Park farm. However, dry conditions meant he did not harvest the crop. Photo: Nicole Baxter GRDC GroundCover Issue 137

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Hoping for an alternative crop near Lockhart, John Stevenson's chickpea trial run out soil moisture

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Farm manager John Stevenson planted kabuli chickpeas for the first time this year in a bid to investigate the pulse’s suitability as a profitable break crop on Warakirri Cropping’s Orange Park aggregation near Lockhart, NSW.

With return on investment the biggest challenge facing Orange Park, John had hoped chickpeas, planted in May this year, would add much-needed profit to the company’s bottom line.

The decision to plant chickpeas came when John was looking for a profitable alternative to faba beans, which he says have been a great agronomic addition to the rotation at Orange Park.

When Mr Stevenson was completing a financial analysis to decide whether to plant the pulse crop, kabuli chickpeas were fetching about $1000 a tonne.

Since then, the chickpea price has dropped, but at the time John felt there was money to be made.

“It was easy to compare one tonne of chickpeas with one tonne of canola and decide we should be giving this a try because we’re obviously missing out on some potential income,” he said.

“We worked out 1.5t per hectare of canola can only be as profitable as 0.75t/ha of chickpeas, so we only need half the yield to be equally as profitable at a lower growing cost.”

To test the viability of growing chickpeas, he planted the ascochyta-resistant, small chickpea Genesis 090 into a 550ha block that had been sown to canola the previous year.

The block was favoured because it was relatively free of weeds and contained the entire mix of soil types found across Orange Park, from acidic gravels to sodic vertosol clays. To assist nodulation, Mr Stevenson used a double rate of peat inoculant before sowing.

After using a Kelly chain to level the paddock, the Genesis 090 seed was sown at 3.5 centimetres deep targeting a plant density of 35 to 45 plants per square metre.

Ideally, he said he would have preferred to have planted the seed 5cm deep, but the disc seeder he had recently purchased did not have enough ballast at the time to enable deeper penetration into hard, dry soils.

Fortunately, 25 chickpea plants per square metre emerged, which John hoped would have been enough to produce a reasonable crop. He was hoping for a wet September and October to provide enough moisture for the chickpeas to produce pods with seeds. However, with extremely dry conditions and a growing season rainfall of just 67 millimetres, John decided not to harvest the crop.

He said chickpeas will be tried again next year in the hope that they will prove to be a profitable crop in more favourable seasonal conditions.

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