Magic pulses back into rotations

Jo FulwoodCountryman

A global wave of interest in the magic properties of pulses for both human and animal consumption is pushing up prices across the broad range of legumes, some by almost 100 per cent.

With 2016 designated the International Year of Pulses, the timing of this price spike is perfect for this commodity to come back into WA grain rotations.

According to Coorow farmer Brian Pover, who is also managing director of Coorow Seeds and a member of the Grains Industry Association of WA pulse council, prices for chickpeas, lentils, faba beans, lupins and peas have jumped significantly in recent months.

“Chick peas and lentils are at record levels, increasing almost double fold, and we’ve seen the price for peas and faba beans increase by 50 per cent,” he said.

Mr Pover said pulses, particularly lupins could again be a profitable part of the grain-growing rotation, and despite the downturn in production from 1 million tonnes to only 300,000 tonnes in recent years, lupins should be considered in this year’s program.

My Pover said many growers were now looking to take a break from their cereal-canola rotations, and would re-introduce lupins into their systems, which had the added benefit of fixing nitrogen in their soils.

He said ideally, 20 per cent of a business’s grain production should be legumes.

“Eight years ago, we used to produce 1 million tonnes of lupins here in Western Australia and now we are down to 300,000 tonnes, partially because lupins couldn’t compete with canola in terms of profitability per hectare,” he said

“Also, canola became popular for rotations in terms of weed control and disease strategies.”

But Mr Pover said soil-borne diseases as a result of long-term canola-wheat rotations were encouraging growers to take another look at pulses.

“Also, with the cattle industry being so buoyant, the demand on lupins has been increasing and the price has gone up substantially,” he said.

“Our lupins are also heading east, at back-load freight rates, servicing the feed markets there.”

He said an increase in human consumption globally was also driving the price spike in pulses.

“If we look at the nutritional value of all pulses, we talk about the protein and fibre benefits and we are now slowly seeing that pulses are finding their way onto the plates of non-Asian populations,” he said.

According to International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics chairman Professor Chandra Madramootoo, pulses are no longer just for poorer consumers.

Professor Madramootoo said pulses were a win-win-win situation for the farmer, consumer and planet.

“The poor of the world have had little choice but to focus their diets on lentils, beans, pigeon pea and chick pea,” he said.

“But Australians should be aware that in addition to providing an opportunity to diversify their diets, pulses help address obesity and manage chronic diseases like diabetes and coronary conditions.

“More linkages between ICRISAT and Australian producers, technologists and processors of pulses will help to advance the production, trade and consumption of pulse crops.

“This is very important, given that pulses are multi-functional crops that are good for nutrition and soil productivity, and are dryland crops that do not need to be irrigated.”

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