OPINION: THE Australian grains industry is largely known for its production of premium quality wheat and barley – the two main cereal crops grown in this country.
Yet the sustainable production of these cereal crops in our area is becoming more and more dependent on the incorporation of pulses into the cropping rotation.
Pulses provide disease breaks for cereal crops, improve weed control options, reduce reliance on fertilisers and assist with diversifying growers’ production and marketing opportunities.
My family and I can attest to the many benefits of growing pulse crops.
Our grain production business in Victoria’s Wimmera is reliant on pulses for putting nitrogen into the soil, assisting with disease and weed management, and of course they help with income and diversification to mitigate risk.
This year we will be growing 512 hectares of red lentils, which – due to rotational balance – is slightly down on the average area we plant to pulses which generally amounts to 20 per cent of our cropping program.
We know that the future success of our grains enterprise is intrinsically linked to having pulses in our farming system – it’s a similar situation for growers throughout the southern cropping region.
Which is why the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) continues to support and invest in plant breeding and research programs aimed at developing improved pulse varieties which are well suited to our unique growing conditions, as well as extension programs to provide growers with the advice and resources they need for successful pulse production.
The GRDC is also investing in targeted pulse-related projects that range from analysis of market opportunities, to biotechnology tools to accelerate pulse variety improvement.
The importance of pulses, in terms of both farming and consumption, will be underlined next year; the United Nations has declared 2016 as the “International Year of Pulses”.
It will be an opportune time for Australia and nations across the globe to review the role pulses play in agricultural production and in feeding the world’s population.
As growers, we should also stop and look at what we can be doing to improve our farming systems through incorporation of more pulse crops.