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Land evaluation for pulse production in WA

Dennis van-Gool1, Peter White1, Wendy Vance2, Noel Schoknecht1 and Richard Bell2

1Department of Agriculture, Western Australia, Baron-Hay Court, South Perth, WA, 6151, Australia. Email: wvance@essun1.murdoch.edu.au
2
School of Environmental Science, Murdoch University, Murdoch, WA 6150, Australia.

Abstract

Pulses appear to have good prospects for widespread cultivation in the WA wheatbelt. However, farmers have not adopted pulses as quickly as anticipated. Most of the pulses species have more specific soil requirements than wheat, the main crop grown in WA. An in-depth survey of farmers aimed at understanding the barriers to adoption of pulses in WA, identified confusion about the suitability of pulses to different soil types as a major barrier to further adoption. Understanding of the soil and landscape constraints to pulse production and relating these to the economics of production (land suitability), is therefore likely to increase the adoption of pulses in WA. This paper reports progress of an ACIAR funded project designed to assess land suitability for pulse cropping in south-western Australia. Land capability maps were generated using data associated with proportionally allocated land units in the soil-landscape map unit database of the Department of Agriculture. Capability for field peas, chickpeas, faba beans and lentils was derived through a process of rating land qualities against the requirements of each crop. The ratings are based primarily on agronomist’s expert opinion obtained through several workshops. Overall 15 land qualities were rated, some examples of these are surface and subsurface pH, waterlogging, trafficability and rooting depth. This land evaluation process accounts for soil and landscape requirements, without considering climate. These maps were then overlaid with Bureau of Meteorology monthly rainfall information and the French and Shultz potential yield equation. The addition of the yield potential to the maps alters the areas deemed well suited for the growth of these crops due for example to changes in the severity of waterlogging or low soil water storage as constraints. The rainfall percentiles are used to indicate areas suitable for crop growth during wet or dry years.

This analysis provides a more comprehensive assessment of land capability for pulses than previously compiled. The next step in the process is to validate maps against existing yield records and then add further layers of data that affect land suitability. These layers include disease incidence and local production cost variations.

References

French RJ, Schultz JE (1984) Water use efficiency of wheat in a Mediterranean-type environment. I The relation between yield, water use and climate. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 35, 734-64.

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