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On-farm trials key to growing mungbean production

Growers and advisers interested in being involved in the mungbean project or finding out more about the research can contact Majella Bathurst at Censeo Field and Lab.
Photo: Photo: Censeo Field and Lab

A $3.6 million project designed to equip growers with the tools, tactics and confidence to successfully grow mungbeans is being launched across Queensland and New South Wales.

As part of the four-year project, growers will plant more than 150 on-farm strip and paddock scale trials at sites from the Burdekin in north Queensland to the New South Wales border.

The project has been initiated by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and will be led by Censeo Field and Lab in collaboration with the Australian Mungbean Association (AMA), the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) and CSIRO – Australia’s National Science Agency.

GRDC grower relations manager – north, Rebecca Raymond, says the project responded to grower and adviser needs and recognised the valuable contribution mungbeans had as an alternative summer legume, particularly in Queensland and NSW farming systems.

“GRDC farming systems research has repeatedly proved that mungbeans can play a significant role in boosting profitability for growers,” Ms Raymond says.

“Current mungbean varieties offer greater reliability and yield potential and this, coupled with global demand and a five-year average price of $1200 a tonne, makes them a very appealing summer crop option.

However, our extensive engagement with growers and advisers shows not everyone understands the agronomic and management practices needed to confidently grow mungbeans so this project is very much about supporting skill development and knowledge.

Ms Raymond says a key part of the trial would be the extensive network of on-farm trials giving growers and advisers across the region a chance to see firsthand how mungbeans perform in different environments.

“These trials will be designed in collaboration and with the support of more than 30 growers and agronomists involved directly in the project,” she says.

“Using their intel and experience we aim to address region-specific mungbean challenges in a way that gives growers confidence to increase production across Queensland and NSW.”

Censeo Field and Lab managing director Majella Bathurst, says the unique characteristics of mungbeans had traditionally made them a challenging crop to manage.

“Mungbean can look lush and green, but there can be issues converting that biomass into yield when it comes to harvest,” Ms Bathurst says.

“The unique characteristics of mungbean cultivation, including their short growth cycle (less than 75 days from sowing to maturity) and sensitivity to environmental conditions, require precise management from growers.

But those growers who crack the mungbean-growing recipe have reported yields of more than three tonnes a hectare with gross margins that dwarf other summer cropping options. However, growers need support and knowledge to realise the crop's full potential and achieve those sorts of yield outcomes.

Ms Bathurst says as well as bolstering farm income, mungbeans also performed favourably in terms of improved water use efficiency, as well as disease and weed control breaks when compared to other summer crops.

“This project aims to really quantify the farming system benefits of the crop, in terms of economic returns so it offers genuine and meaningful data for growers when it comes to decision making,” Ms Bathurst says.

AMA executive officer David Pietsch says it was encouraging to see growers increasingly using mungbeans as a profitable, short-rotation crop, but the project would fill a critical need when it came to implementing best practice management.

“We believe there is significant potential for mungbean industry expansion and anticipate up to 200,000 tonnes of the summer pulse crop could be grown annually in Queensland and NSW this decade,” he says.

“Given the clear focus of this project on key elements such as soil nutrition, irrigation scheduling and crop management, we hope more growers will opt to give mungbeans a go.”

Growers and advisers interested in being involved in the project or finding out more about the research can contact Majella Bathurst at Censeo Field and Lab.

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