Australian Mungbean Association

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Irrigated mungbeans performing well in CQ

Neil Marshall, Fernlees CQ grows mungbeans and chickpeas in rotation under this centre pivot.

11 November, 2017


Neil Marshall has been growing mungbeans for 10 years at Fernlees, Central Queensland under both irrigated and dryland systems. Mungbeans have proven to be the best option for their summer crop area.

“In the last two summers we found that planting mungbeans at the end of February was a good way to avoid harsh conditions at flowering but still allow time to double-crop back to chickpea on the irrigated block,” he said.

“We have tried spring mungbeans but often don’t get enough in-crop rain to compensate for the high temperatures over the peak of summer. In the end it is just too risky and we probably wouldn’t consider spring mungbeans again unless there was a very wet spring one year.”

Neil’s irrigated block is 62 ha in total but only 45 ha gets water from the low pressure centre pivot irrigator, with the one pivot watering two circular areas on the block.

Prior to planting Neil waters up the profile well then follows up with frequent applications (every 10 days) of small amounts of water (40–50 mm) during the growing season. This maintains good soil moisture for the crop without waterlogging, and also keeps the soil temperature down a little.

The honeycomb basalt under the farm provides an excellent source of irrigation water, supplying two bores with water of almost potable quality.

Neil has previously grown Crystal mungbeans but tried Jade-AU last season hoping that having pods higher on the bushes would make harvest easier. “Although the plants stayed quite short in 2016/17, the pods were held higher and the mungbeans yielded very well at 1.5 to 2.2 t/ha from dryland blocks and 2.5 to 3 t/ha from the irrigated block,” said Neil.

The mungbean – chickpea – mungbean rotation on the irrigated block is working well and is a profitable use of the available water. Neil prepares the block for planting mungbean in February, which means the chickpea crop is sown later than some of his dryland winter crop area but then won’t be harvested until October, effectively spreading the harvest work load.

Neil said he has had no problems with disease management and believes that the cultivation of the crop residue between the two pulse crops helps lower the disease risk.

In December Neil will decide how much of the 1650 ha dryland portion of the farm to plant to mungbeans. The remaining crop area will be sown to sorghum and about 50 per cent of the area is usually fallowed.

Neil plants mungbeans on the cleanest blocks and wherever there is ample soil moisture in the profile. Even if soil moisture is available earlier he delays planting mungbeans until late January or February.

“Mungbeans need a higher level of inputs and crop management than sorghum,” he said. “Decisions to plant are mostly economic – a poor mungbean crop is still more valuable than an average sorghum crop at the current prices.”

Planting mungbean, wheat and chickpea on 450 mm row spacing means quicker row closure and less weed pressure, which minimises in-crop herbicide use.

One downside of planting later in the summer is the cost of weed control during a wet summer season. Neil applies residual herbicide after the winter crop is harvested to provide fallow weed control. He has established a minimum tillage system on the self-mulching black soil farm, using cultivation every second summer to manage weeds, breakdown residual herbicides and renovate wheeltracks. Cultivation is the most cost effective option to manage weeds such as feathertop Rhodes grass. Neil uses a tined cultivator to maintain as much soil structure as possible while still providing good weed control.

Neil controls parthenium in a 500 m buffer around mungbeans to reduce the risk of TSV infection. This is easier in the dryland blocks where the mungbeans are often surrounded with other crops but the irrigated block is more isolated, surrounded with grass and a creek line, making parthenium control more difficult.

Puffy pod is the main disease in mungbean and Neil estimates his losses to puffy pod in recent crops has been around 2–3 per cent, but it can be much higher and the best control options are still unknown.

In winter Neil usually has 85 per cent of the area is sown to wheat and chickpea and remaining 15 per cent sown to a fodder sorghum and dolichus lablab crop. The fodder crop generally provides two years of grazing for the 300 head herd, turning off bullocks.

“We can usually double crop out of wheat into mungbean or sorghum because there is better sub-soil moisture after wheat than chickpea,” said Neil. “A common sequence on the dryland blocks is wheat, mungbean, then into an 18-month fallow and back to chickpea. Good rain in January to April, 300 mm in total, this year provided good planting moisture profile for the winter crops.”

The Fernlees area has received useful rainfall over the last few weeks and Neil is hopeful there will be more to fill the profile in time for planting.


Contact Paul McIntosh Pulse Australia, Industry Development Manager–Northern      Ph: 0429 566 198