Bumper harvest ahead for peas


A bumper crop of chickpeas and field peas has been forecast this season, with harvest set begin soon.

The Department of Agriculture and Food, in conjunction with Pulse Breeding Australia (PBA) has several variety trial sites across the grain belt at Esperance, Bindi Bindi, Merredin, Green Hills and Mingenew.

DAFWA development officer Ian Pritchard showed off new field pea varieties burgeoning with pods at the recent Merredin Research Station centenary field day.

Mr Pritchard said the new pea varieties had recovered remarkably well after the dry conditions in June and were on track for high yields.

"The new varieties of field peas, like PBA Wharton, PBA Twilight and PBA Gunyah are all expected to yield at least 1.8 tonnes per hectare, with some reports from around Esperance that crops could go as high as 2-2.5t/ha," he said. "Similar yields are expected for chickpea varieties PBA Slasher, PBA Striker and the DAFWA/COGGO varieties Neelam and Ambar."

The department works closely with PBA breeding programs in selecting and evaluating new varieties.

Mr Pritchard demonstrated at the Merredin field day that the new varieties come with improved disease resistance and more pods.

"The old varieties had on average five to six peas per pod, where as these new varieties may have 10 or 11 - and that means more money in the bank, with prices currently around $300 per tonne," he said. "They are also more resilient, especially the new field pea variety PBA Wharton, which has resistance to pea seed borne Mosaic Virus. The new chickpea varieties also have a significantly increased resistance to chickpea ascochyta blight."

Although the total area sown to chickpeas and field peas has declined in recent years, Mr Pritchard urged growers to reconsider field peas and chickpeas as part of their rotation.

"With higher yields and improved disease resistance, these new varieties of field peas and chickpeas can be a valuable inclusion as a break crop or for nitrogen fixation," he said. "Peas also aid weed control and reduce nematodes and as this year has shown, they are resilient once established to variable season conditions."

PBA is a nationally coordinated breeding program with significant investment from the Grains Research and Development Corporation.

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