|Trends in Pulse and Oilseed Crops in Winter Cereal Rotations in NSW
Farmers in the broadacre cropping areas of NSW have developed farming systems that generally involve rotations between crops, fallow and/or pasture, depending on the region and its soils and climate. However, despite the fact that some benefits of rotations are well known, cereals have dominated many of these regions. The dominance of cereals has a number of disadvantages for the farming systems, and if cereals are too dominant it is an indicator that the system may not be sustainable in the long term.
The key aims in this study are to assess the current level of importance of pulse and oilseed (broadleaf) crops in winter cereal rotations in NSW, and to identify recent trends. A further aim is to establish a basis on which NSW Department of Primary Industries can monitor its future performance in relation to a target figure for the importance of broadleaf crops. Thus, not only is it important to establish recent trends and levels of the importance of broadleaf crops, but also to enable continuing and on-going assessment of those levels.
An examination of the recent trends in the importance of broadleaf crops indicates production increases have occurred in each region of NSW, but different crops have been favoured. Canola has played a key role in southern regions, but in the northern regions chickpea has been the dominant crop. The prices obtained for pulses, particularly those used only for stockfeed purposes, have tended to increase more slowly than those for wheat and other food grains. In many areas, pulse crops been grown because of rotational benefits that enhance their direct gross margins sufficiently to make them worthy of inclusion in crop rotations.
If recent trends continue, the role of broadleaf crops will reach 25% of the area sown to field crops in NSW before 2020. However, achieving a level of 25% of alternative crops in winter cereal rotations will require:
(a) robust varieties with improved disease resistance, drought tolerance and harvestability;
(b) development of human consumption markets and a focus on selling high quality grain; and
(c) specific extension programs to promote broadleaf crops, particularly in districts where adoption is low (5-10%).
These requirements will only be achieved with a focussed effort in both research and extension activities.