Strong lupin prices are expected to hold

Strong lupin prices are expected to hold

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On Monday, lupins traded $560 per tonne free in store at Kwinana.

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THE price being fetched for lupins is more than $150 more per tonne than this time last year, breeders are doing extensive work to improve lines and researchers are looking into expanding their sowing window.

Some growers have stuck by the legume for years, but for those that haven't, now is a great time to be adding them into the rotation.

On Monday, lupins traded $560 per tonne free in store at Kwinana, where as in March 2019, they were sitting at about $370/t.

In the middle of December last year, prices were about $475/t but that climbed to $500/t by early January, now they're trading at at least $550/t and that price has just kept growing.

Clear Grain Exchange managing director Nathan Cattle said the country was in a drought market on the east coast and the feed market had been driving values.

"Most grades of wheat are trading at very similar prices, which is an indication that the feed market is driving demand rather than the milling market," Mr Cattle said.

"There also hasn't been a heap of lupins grown because a lot of the big area of lupins unfortunately didn't have a great year last year, so that's playing into prices.

"It's basic economics, demand is high because of the drought and supply is relatively short because of the season last year."

DPIRD research scientist Andrew Blake said lupins were a great crop and having them in the rotation provided a number of benefits.

"Firstly they are legumes so they do contribute fixed nitrogen to the soil and some of that will carry over to the subsequent cereal crop," Mr Blake said.

"Secondly they do provide some kind of disease break, if you grow continuous wheat diseases can build up, so lupins offer a break from that.

"Also, growing alternative crops allows the use of alternative techniques or herbicide groups for weed control so lupins can be useful in terms of managing herbicide resistant populations of weeds."

Chapman Valley grower Bruce Ley had been growing lupins for more than 30 years and said they formed a critical part of his rotation.

"In our paddocks, wheat does better on lupin stubble than any other alternatives that we've tried," Mr Ley said.

"Prices at the moment are at record highs and honestly I can't believe where they're sitting, I've never seen anything like it.

"Most people that have grown lupins and have stuck with them have done so because they're normally a reliable crop, in our paddocks, wheat makes up about 55 per cent, canola is about 12pc and lupins is the rest."

Australian Grain Technologies lupin breeder Matthew Aubert said varieties, such as Jurien, which was a key variety on the market, have shown in recent years that they have a split seed problem.

"We're seeing about 40 per cent of Jurien seeds having split seeds which can really negatively impact germination," Dr Aubert said.

"If we can correct that split seed characteristic in lupins we can increase the germination potential and therefore increase the profitability and productivity of the crop."

In AGT's breeding program, screening for the trait has been relatively easy and they've been able to make a lot of progress.

"We've been able to screen a lot of lines and see if in our breeding program we're having the same issue and we're not," Dr Aubert said.

"In most of our advanced lines coming through, we're only seeing a one to two per cent number of split seeds, compared to Jurien which is about 40pc."

Mr Blake said DPIRD was working on a project with the Grains Research and Development Corporation which is focused on expanding the sowing window for canola and lupins.

"We've generally seen that there has been a trend to people sowing lupin earlier and earlier when the opportunity is presented in terms of rainfall," Mr Blake said.

"In a year like this, where a lot of people have had summer rain and there's moisture in the soil, we can't really tell them which varieties would be best to plant.

"So we're trying to provide some advice around species choice for earlier and earlier times of sowing, as well as late times of sowing."

The trial is being conducted at four sites around WA, with the first paddocks sown for this year on March 18.

With no more lupins entering the market until the next harvest, it is likely the current prices could be supported until harvest time.

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