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Could high-value pulses play a tactical role in rotations?

Sowing chickpeas early can boost yields and provide improved break-crop benefits. Mid-May sowing (left), and mid-April sowing (right) photo taken 16 June 2021 both sown at 12 centimetres depth.
Photo: West Midlands Group

Having determined chickpea profitability can be improved with early sowing, GRDC is supporting further work by West Midlands Group to ascertain the broader role chickpeas could play in double break crop sequences to further boost their value in crop rotations.

“The key to improving profitability of double break sequences lies in taking advantage of early seeding opportunities for chickpea to achieve early plant establishment which sets the crop up for a high yield potential. To achieve this, it is crucial to plant into moisture at sowing,” says Dr Nathan Craig, Executive Officer at the West Midlands Group who has been leading research into alternate legumes in the West Midlands region.

The secret to successful early establishment of chickpea is its ability to emerge from deep in the soil. “While in some years we have had to sow chickpea up to 20 centimetres deep to access soil moisture, for the 2021 season we only had to sow about 12 centimetres deep. Regardless of depth, it usually takes about seven to ten days for chickpea to emerge in moist warm soil when sown in the middle of April,” said Dr Craig.

Effective disease control in chickpea is an important consideration for early sown chickpea, and while there has been little issue in the West Midlands region to date, management of disease will become more important as the area of chickpea – and inoculum – increases.

The use of break crop sequences is a key tool when paddocks require increased attention– where cereal disease or weeds are not effectively controlled with a single break crop rotation. The use of canola with effective weed control followed by a high value legume, such as chickpea, is thought to be a useful mix of effective weed control and nitrogen fixation, resulting in increased cereal yield in the following year.

This project will validate the effectiveness of this approach for WA cropping systems. For this, the changes in soil pathogen and weed populations are monitored in the chickpea crop and the following cereal crop. The benefit to grain yield in the succeeding cereal crop and three-year Gross Margin are a key focus of this project. The outcome will be a wider range of profitable break crop options for farmers to get on top of even the hardest to manage paddocks.

More information: Dr Nathan Craig, 0438 924 208,

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