Australian Mungbean Association

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Onyx-AU streaks ahead of Regur in the black gram stakes

Norwin farmer Rod Ferguson was very pleased with the performance of the newly released Onyx-AU black gram variety.


23 October, 2018


by Cindy Benjamin

Bill and Rod Ferguson have been growing black gram, a close relative of mungbean, on their farm at Norwin for over 20 years. Until the commercial release of Onyx-AU last season, the only black gram variety available to Australian growers was Regur, released by CSIRO in 1975.

When Onyx-AU was released, the limited yield data available suggested it would achieve a 10–11 per cent yield advantage over Regur, and being cautiously optimistic, the Fergusons wanted to make sure that the new variety would out-perform the old on their farm. They planted half their usual 200 ha area to each variety in a side-by-side comparison after a long fallow following sorghum. They plant black gram on 90 cm row spacing to enable them to double crop back to wheat or barley.

Planted in the first week of January, 2018 at a rate of 20 kg/ha and inoculated with rhizobia in a peat slurry, Rod was pleased with the 90 per cent germination of Onyx-AU. With about 60 mm of in-crop rain, 40 kg/ha of Starter Z fertiliser and two scud sprays for mirids, both crops performed well. The only set-back was a high level of tan spot infection.

“The Onyx-AU was infected but to a much lesser extent, and the bushes remained healthier and darker green compared to the Regur,” said Rod. “The level of tan spot infection in the paddock was very unusual – I had never seen that before.”

Ahead of harvest, when 90 per cent of the pods were black and crispy, Rod applied glyphosate to kill the plants and initiate dry-down. About a fortnight after this application the crop was ready for harvest and primed to achieve a clean sample of high quality beans.

Rod’s harvester cuts each plant off 5 cm above ground level using individual row rotary cutters on skids. This allows the front to follow the lay of the land, even on contour banks and through gullies, while avoiding picking up any dirt. The whole plant is taken into the harvester on rubber alligator belts with no shattering of the pods in front of the header.

Rod was pleased to harvest about 1.2 t/ha from the Onyx-AU half of the paddock, a huge 70 per cent better yield compared to the 0.7 t/ha from the Regur section. This was a combined effect of a higher yielding variety and the improved tan spot reaction of Onyx-AU. Rod has previously achieved black gram yields up to 1.8 t/ha in a good year.

Department of Agriculture and Fisheries senior research scientist, Col Douglas said black gram varieties have more flowering sites than green mungbean varieties and they set pods from very low on the plant to the top. This means the crops require very thorough scouting, right to the base of the plants, to protect pods, flowers and buds from insect damage, all at the same time.

“Compared to green mungbean, black gram requires more intense management to meet the requirements of a premium, niche market,” he said. “Onyx-AU has delivered increased resilience and productivity for experienced black gram growers like the Fergusons.”

“In recent years we have uncovered, and are now exploiting, new sources of bacterial resistance available in black gram germplasm.”

Australian Mungbean Association president Mark Schmidt said growers interested in growing black gram should consult with their marketer first regarding price. “We usually expect black gram to attract a $50–100/t premium over the green mungbean price, but yields are often lower,” he said. “It is critical that black gram grain is completely free of green mungbean grain on delivery. Black gram is a niche market that suits some growers very well, but it is not for everyone.”


Other resources: Onyx-AU VMP