HIGH prices and lower-than-expected levels of disease have made for an excellent year for WA pulse crops, despite gloomy expectations. Agriculture WA leader for the pulse sub-program Kadambot Siddique said there was no reason why farmers shouldn't continue with, or even increase their pulse crops in 2001. "There had been a significant reduction in the number of chickpea and faba bean crops sown in 2000 due to the late break and fears around successfully managing the disease ascochyta blight in chickpea," Dr Siddique said. "In addition, confidence in pulse crops during the 2000 growing season continued to be influenced by the lack of finishing rains. Nonetheless, the majority of pulse farmers have finished the season on a high note." Dr Siddique said implementation of the ascochyta blight management package for chickpea crops significantly reduced the effect of the disease and proved that average yields could be achieved despite its presence. "Even where pulse crop yields were reduced due to disease, the late break or unseasonable conditions, pulse farmers have come out on top with prices steadily climbing," he said. In fact, desi chickpeas have reached historical highs of more than $600 per tonne, with other pulse crops achieving similar high levels. Kubuli chickpeas reached more than $1000/t, faba beans more than $300/t, and lentils more than $550/t. Dr Siddique said, with certain factors reducing the supply of pulse crops in international markets, it was likely that high prices would continue into 2001. "Provided we get a normal break, I can see no reason why WA farmers should not expand pulses in their 2001 cropping programs," he said. In relation to crop yields in 2000, lentil crops appeared to fare the best, with yields ranging from 0.3t/hectare to 1.5t/ha, and most crops averaging around 0.8t/ha. Field pea yields were generally below average, with the dry finish resulting in an average of 0.6-0.8t/ha. Although, while low rainfall areas in the north-east had yields as low as 0.2t/ha, medium rainfall areas in the south-east reported yields as high as 1.4t/ha. Chickpea yields were on average 0.4-0.6t/ha, with one crop in the north-east achieving a yield of 1.4t/ha. In addition, pulse traders from WA reported that the quality of this year's pulse was very good. Dr Siddique said a number of growers indicated they were very pleased with the performance of pulses, given the difficult season. "Many growers achieved significant profit margins from well managed pulse crops and it is pleasing to see pulse grower groups indicating they will include a number of pulse crops in their cropping program during the 2001 season," he said.