Grain legumes initiative aims to close yield gap in SA

SA Grain Legume Project Melrose site last year
A presentation at the SA Grain Legume Project Melrose site last year. Photo: Jade Rose

The economic impact of a range of management options for grain legume crops will be further explored this year through a collaborative and geographically broad initiative in South Australia.

A total of 33 trials are being sown in 2022 for the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC)-invested SA Grain Legume Project: ‘Development and extension to close the economic yield gap and maximise farming systems benefits from grain legume production in South Australia’.

The project aims to address the current 40 per cent yield gap between average grain legume yields and water-limited yield potential and drive its closure through supporting growers with extension of best practice grain legume agronomy.

It is the second year of the project, for which the contributing research organisations are the University of Adelaide and the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), the research division of the Department of Primary Industries and Regions.

Key collaborators for the SA project are SARDI, Frontier Farming Systems, EPAG Research, FAR Australia and Trengove Consulting. Affiliated communications and extension partners are Ag Innovation and Research Eyre Peninsula, Upper North Farming Systems, Hart Field-Site Group, Mid North High Rainfall Zone Group and Mallee Sustainable Farming.

Project research coordinator Sarah Day, of SARDI, says trials will be located at the project’s ‘hub’ sites at Tooligie, Hart and Loxton and at ‘spoke’ sites at Millicent, Lameroo, Melrose, Riverton, Maitland, Bute, Pinnaroo, Kimba and Wangary.

“This year’s trials program is looking at the economic impact of various management options for grain legume crops, including diseases, weeds and herbicide use,” Ms Day says.

“Other areas of focus are soil amelioration – including deep ripping – and reducing pod loss. There are also some lentil and field pea variety trials going into some locations to increase the understanding of how these cultivars are adapted to expanding areas.”

Ms Day says most trials revolve around lentils, however, chickpeas, faba beans, field peas and vetch are represented, as well as cereals for benchmarking purposes.

“The trials are very region-specific and have been designed to answer questions being asked by growers at that local level.

“GRDC invested in this project for that particular reason – to address the need for more refined grain legume crop management approaches for different regions.”

Some of the trials have been designed to address emerging issues identified through the GRDC’s National Grower Network.

Prioritising engagement with growers, the initiative will this year involve a series of extension activities at every site, including field days, crop walks and sticky beak days.

“More than 550 people participated in the extension activities last year which was really pleasing given the disruptions caused by COVID-19,” Ms Day says.

“We expect that high rate of engagement to continue this year as growers are keen to see work going on in their own backyard and how that may translate to their own farming systems and practices.”

In addition to closing the yield gap, the project aims to support grain growers and their advisers in the target regions to maximise system profitability by incorporating grain legumes in the rotation; drive and support sustainable expansion of the area grown to grain legumes; and have a targeted 45 per cent of growers adopt or intend to adopt new and novel practices emerging from linked proof-of-concept and innovation research.

Monitoring and evaluation to benchmark and undertake some preliminary assessment of long-term impacts is a key component of this GRDC investment which involves similar projects in Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia.

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