AGRICULTURE Victoria scientists at Horsham's Grains Innovation Park are performing ground-breaking research into the viability of growing alternative legume crops in the Wimmera.
The new Grains Research and Development Corporation and Agriculture Victoria investment program will assess the hardiness of both winter and summer crop options.
Early sown trials at Horsham have been established, with 812 different Australian Grains Genebank legume lines being tested.
The research will look at the optimal time for sowing and herbicide options across the Mallee, Wimmera, north east Victoria and south west Victoria.
Program leader James Nuttall said adapted legume crop options were limited within southern region farming systems, particularly relating to summer crop options.
"Despite the significant breeding gains made with the major grain legumes including lentil, chickpea, field pea, faba bean and lupin, further opportunities exist for alternative legumes in the system," Dr Nuttall said.
"Ultimately, we are aiming to identify crops and management strategies that can expand the range of legumes available to the grains industry helping to build soil nitrogen, utilise out of season rainfall and improve farm profitability."
He said the program would look at assessing legume crops in terms of their potential to generating farming system benefits to growers.
"New legume crops have the potential to provide greater flexibility as both grain and fodder options, fix additional nitrogen and, in the case of summer crops, provide opportunity to utilise rainfall in late spring and summer," he said.
The legume crops being tested include adzuki bean, black gram, black turtle bean, borlotti bean, burgundy bean, cowpea, guar bean, kidney bean, lab lab, lathyrus, messina, moth bean, mungbean, narbon bean, navy bean, pigeon pea and soybean. Many of these crops are traditionally suited to sub-tropical growing conditions.
The program will also involve tapping into the Australian Grains Genebank at Horsham.
Research agronomist Audrey Delahunty is working on the program.
She said the Genebank legume had provided an invaluable supply of germplasm to test for genetic adaptation of alternative legumes to the southern region.
"In testing a broad range of germplasm from the AGG, within the southern Australia environment, this will also help inform breeding programs of the key traits and genetic potential available to maximise adaptation of alternative legume crops within this region and systems context," she said.
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