Timing the key to capitalising on chickpea prices

Author: Grains Research and Development Corporation northern region panellist Jack Williamson

Jack Williamson, GRDC Northern Panellist.

The northern cropping region is seeing a massive chickpea plant this winter on the back of an extremely bullish chickpea market.

With prices hovering around record territory, many growers have reassessed their winter cropping options in a bid to take advantage of the attractive gross margins on offer.

However growers will need to keep their eye on the ball in terms of crop management if they are to maximise returns.

Adhering to best practice management for all aspects of the chickpea cropping season will be crucial to production and profitability but the critical driver of success will be timing – this word should underpin every agronomic management decision growers make this season from planting to weed control, plant nutrition, disease and pest management.

Timing will be particularly important when it comes to the management of diseases such as ascochyta blight and growers need to be proactive when it comes to applying prophylactic (preventional) fungicide sprays as there are no curative products available for ascochyta.

Research supported by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and led by New South Wales Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) senior plant pathologist Dr Kevin Moore found a significant jump in the incidence of ascochyta infection in 2014 chickpea crops in areas of NSW and Southern Queensland. The disease was found in 18.7% of crops inspected last year compared to 1.8% in 2013 and 5.2% in 2012.

This highlights the need for growers to implement an appropriate fungicide management program if they are to avoid costly yield losses, particularly in `high risk’ areas where ascochyta was detected in 2014.

In high risk areas, Dr Moore is recommending that all varieties, including PBA HatTrick, should be sprayed with a registered ascochyta fungicide prior to the first rain event after crop emergence, three weeks after emergence, or at the three branch stage of crop development – whichever occurs first.

Best practice management will hinge on growers’ ability to access fungicides, herbicides and insecticides as soon as an application is required. This means having sufficient chemicals on hand in case supply shortages occur, as we saw in 2010 following widespread disease outbreaks.

A variety of resources is available to help growers with their decision making. The GRDC chickpea GrowNotes module is a comprehensive online resource that offers best practice recommendations and expert advice on all aspects of Desi and Kabuli chickpea production and can be accessed at the GRDC GrowNotes page.

The eXtension AUS website also offers a selection of articles on the identification and management of ascochyta blight in the northern region.