Wide row spacing boosts lupin crop yields

Shannon Beattie
By Shannon Beattie
December 5 2021 - 11:00pm
Dylan Hirsch, Latham, has a long-term average lupin yield of 1.4 tonnes per hectare, whereas this year he ended up with an average of about 2.4t/ha.

WITH yields 70 per cent higher than average, it's safe to say that Latham grower Dylan Hirsch is absolutely stoked with his lupin crop this year.

While Mr Hirsch and his family have grown lupins for a long time, they had a 15-year hiatus before returning to the crop four years ago.

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It acts as a useful break crop and is a great way of fixing nitrogen into the soil, however a good looking lupin crop doesn't necessarily mean it's going to yield well and quite often there is an inverse relationship between biomass and yield.

Wanting to try something different to see if he could better manage the lupin biomass, Mr Hirsch seeded his crop this year using wide row spacing and a disc seeder.

"We had tried wide row spacing with our traditional tyne seeder in the past with mixed results," Mr Hirsch said.

"Overall we liked the system and could see the potential in it, however the issue with the tyne seeder was that we didn't have the ability to lift the middle tynes out and we would still have a fair bit of soil disturbance.

"In the past we'd had some poor lupin crops as in dry years we had to spray the crop out and because of that disturbance, we weren't left with much ground cover."

The idea behind sticking to the wide row spacing but changing to a disc seeding system was to try to reduce that risk so they could keep more cereal stubble from the year before through the lupin phase.

Having had wider row spacing for a few years, Mr Hirsch had anecdotally noticed that lupins seemed to be able to put on more pods when they've got wider rows.

"We'd seen instances before where there was really high biomass, but the crop stayed vegetative and produced leaves, rather than pods," he said.

"Whereas this year, while we did have high biomass, the rows still had a bit of space and a lot of sunlight in between them, so they podded up quite well."

The 900 hectares of Jurien lupins, which makes up 15pc of the Hirschs' total program, was sown on April 21, a week and a half after ex-Tropical Cyclone Seroja hit - which meant the crop could be seeded a bit deeper and into the moisture.

After a pretty favourable year weather-wise, harvesting of the crop began on November 13 and it has been the best year ever for them.

"Our long-term average lupin yield is 1.4 tonnes per hectare, whereas this year we've ended up with an average of about 2.4t/ha," Mr Hirsch said.

"What's really pleasing is that we put a lot of heavier clay and salty country into lupins, which we wouldn't normally grow as lupins tend to not grow well on that soil type.

"But this year they seemed to go OK and had some areas which we would usually never dream of putting lupins on and that still yielded 1.7t/ha on non-traditional lupin country."

While the results are undoubtedly exciting, Mr Hirsch still isn't getting his expectations up too high for the future, noting that this year has seen almost optimal growing conditions.

However he will take lessons from the experience, mainly that he can push the early sowing envelope for lupins when there is subsoil moisture.

Mr Hirsch will also keep going with the wide row spacing as it works agronomically, but also allows him to seed quite fast with very little horsepower, meaning less stress on the machine and less maintenance.

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"We'll also do some soil testing around Christmas and before seeding and we're hoping that the lupins not only gave us some good yields but have also set us up with some nitrogen in the soil for next year given the high fertiliser prices," he said.

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