Chickpeas strike back

Claire TyrrellCountryman

Chickpeas were a hot topic for discussion at the Liebe Group Spring Field Day, after the release of three new varieties which are expected to change the face of the industry for WA growers.

Pulse Australia industry development manager Alan Meldrum spruiked the virtues of PBA Striker, Neelam and Ambar chickpea varieties.

Officially launched at the Mingenew Irwin Group spring field day on September 6, the new varieties are expected to deliver improvements in yield and disease resistance.

"These new varieties show the value of genetics in fighting disease and improving production base," Mr Meldrum said.

The WA chickpea crop fell from 70,000 hectares in the late 1990s to about 5000ha this year, after fungal disease ascochyta blight devastated the industry in 1999.

Mr Meldrum said the industry's work over the past 13 years would allay growers' fears about losing chickpeas to disease.

"There is no way you are going to lose a chickpea crop to disease any more," he said.

"We grew 70,000ha of chickpeas in WA in 1998 but it has gone down dramatically since. We have the potential to get it back up to that level with our genetics."

He said industry-bred PBA Striker was an earlier-vigour, higher-yielding variety than benchmark variety PBA Slasher.

"Striker looks similar to Slasher but it has more vigour and should yield about 10 per cent more," he said.

"It has moderate resistance to ascochyta blight, which is adequate protection for WA growers."

University of WA researchers developed the Ambar and Neelam chickpea varieties, early and mid-maturing plants, respectively.

Mr Meldrum said both of these varieties had similar yield potential to Striker but higher disease resistance.

"Ambar is suited to a more niche market than Striker and Neelam," he said.

"It is very early-flowering and would suit growers in low rainfall areas."

He said Neelam had a bigger seed and taller plant than Ambar, and would likely be taken up by more growers.

"Neelam has a similar seed quality to Ambar but is highly marketable," he said.

According to Pulse Australia, Australia produces about 40 per cent of the world's chickpeas, most of which are produced in the eastern states.

Mr Meldrum said these new varieties should result in greater uptake by WA growers.

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