FARMERS are being urged to take advantage of the early rains and plant faba beans.
Agriculture Department pulse productivity manager Peter White said the recent rains produced the best conditions the state has had since 1999 for establishing a faba bean crop.
Dr White said it was well known that faba bean yield and biomass production were improved by early sowing, depending on location.
But as most varieties were still relatively susceptible to fungal disease, he advised not to sow too early.
"The best way to avoid disease is to delay sowing slightly," Dr White said.
"Sowing in late April to early May is recommended in low rainfall areas.
"Sowing during May in medium rainfall areas and late May to early June in high rainfall areas is also recommended.
Dr White said while prices were likely to remain flat for most of the year, WA farmers were usually the first cab-off-the rank at harvest time in Australia and had the opportunity to get nice, fresh coloured beans into the market before most other suppliers.
"This allows our farmers to attract slightly higher prices, so hopefully we may see the price in WA improve slightly towards the end of the year," he said.
Dr White said there were other reasons why farmers should consider growing faba beans.
"They have several advantages over other crops that makes them ideal for many paddocks," he said.
"One of them is tolerance to waterlogging.
"Faba beans are the most waterlogging-tolerant pulse species available and grow well on heavy clays subject to transient waterlogging that would kill or severely damage many other crops."
The Agriculture Department is about to undertake a trial aimed at improving the water-logging tolerance of faba beans.
Dr White said the most waterlogging-tolerant line had been crossed with Fiesta and the progeny from this cross would be sown this season to identify superior lines with improved levels of waterlogging tolerance.
"Faba beans are also resistant to some root lesion nematodes, which prevents nematode numbers building up during the faba bean phase of the rotation, substantially reducing the burden on following crops," he said.
"They are also an erect crop that made them easier to harvest than field pea or lentil, which makes them a good pulse option for uneven or stony ground."
However, Dr White warned that faba beans could still set very low pods in some years, and harrowing and rolling paddocks immediately after sowing was needed if low pods were to be harvested.
Dr White said an added advantage of faba beans was very vigorous growth and high biomass production that adds a lot of nitrogen back into the soil.
"Our trials show that wheat yields are generally higher after faba bean than most other legume crops, and this is supported by observations from farmers," he said.