THE ASTOUNDING renaissance of the faba bean sector looks set to continue this season, with prices on track to remain at historic highs.
While there will be no repeat of last year's dizzy highs where prices peaked at a record $1100 a tonne, there is still a healthy $450-500/t on offer making the gross margins very attractive, especially when combined with beans' renowned nitrogen fixing qualities.
With this in mind more growers in high rainfall zones (HRZs) have been keen to increase their faba bean plant, and the release of a new variety designed specifically for higher rainfall environments will boost their confidence in the crop.
Faba beans are already the pulse crop of choice in the majority of southern HRZs, due to their relative tolerance of waterlogging and, pertinently for farmers in Victoria's Western District, tolerance of acid soils.
Pulse Breeding Australia bred PBA Amberley, available next year through seed distributor Seednet, specifically with the high rainfall zone in mind.
Co-breeder of the variety Jeff Paull, Adelaide University, said the variety had good resistance to the fungal disease chocolate spot.
Fungal disease pressure is generally higher in HRZs due to the canopy remaining wetter more often.
PBA Amberley is the only faba bean variety grown that has some form of resistance to chocolate spot, the most economically damaging disease in faba beans, with all other varieties either moderately susceptible or susceptible to the disease.
The chocolate spot resistance, combined with good ascochyta blight resistance, will mean farmers can reduce the frequency and cost of fungicide applications, which can be prohibitive in moist climates.
Fellow breeder Rohan Kimber, South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), said the plant architecture was also designed for larger amounts of biomass.
"The plant has excellent standing ability and low levels of 'necking' (where the plant snaps off either halfway up the stalk or higher)," Dr Kimber said.
Dr Paull said PBA Amberley yielded reasonably in medium yielding environments, but came into its own in high yielding environments in excess of 3 tonnes a hectare, constantly being the top yielder in trials where mean yields were above the 3.5t/ha mark.
He said the target areas for the cultivar were in Victoria's Western District, creeping up into the southern Wimmera and the lower South-East and high rainfall areas of the Mid-North in South Australia, but added it could have a fit in lower rainfall regions, such as the southern Riverina or the Wimmera proper.
In terms of seed quality, Dr Paull said he was confident the medium sized seed, similar to PBA Samira, would be popular in the Middle East markets which dominate the world human consumption faba bean industry.
Australia generally produces between 300,000 and 500,000 tonnes of faba beans, with the vast majority grown in South Australia and Victoria, although last year there were just 198,000 tonnes grown due to the drought.