PULSE growers are being urged to take extra caution when harvesting lentils, with a spate of header fires in the Mid North and Yorke Peninsula caused by the ignition of lentil residues.
The increase in lentil fires is significant, and has puzzled local farmers, Grain Producers SA and the CFS.
"We've had talks with the CFS to try and get a handle on exactly how many there have been," GPSA chief executive Darren Arney said. "It's tough to know because the CFS would attend some fires, but then farmers would just put others out themselves.
"There is something a little bit unique going on this season, and that's what we're trying to identify."
In addition to encouraging farmers to take extra precautions when harvesting lentils, GPSA has enlisted Queensland-based harvest fire expert Graeme Quick to investigate the reason for the sudden increase. He will look for any differences in lentil residues this year, the ignition sources and circumstances of fires so far and the fuel loads of the crops.
"Dr Quick will prepare a report that compiles this data and assesses potential causes and will provide the report to GPSA next month," Mr Arney said.
"If there needs to be further work done from there then we'll get it done, because this year's crop is worth $120 million.
Mr Arney said the increase in fires may be partly attributable to an increase in lentil plantings, but farmers needed to know if there was something more going on.
"Is it more ignitions or is it because we had a lot of crop growth this year with the wet winter? That's why we're doing the research into what the cause is, we just don't know," he said.
"While there has been an increased observation of ignition of lentil residues this harvest, there has also been a large increase in the area sown to lentils. This year, 94,800 hectares have been sown compared with 88,800ha last year and 68,500ha a decade ago.
"Part of Dr Quick's research will determine how much of the increased observance is due to the fact there are more lentils being harvested so once the data has been collected, the cause can be identified."
Dr Quick spent a week in SA last week, meeting with PIRSA and the CFS before venturing out into graingrowing regions.
"He's caught up with a lot of growers already - whether they've had fires or haven't had fires - and he spoke to a lot of machinery dealers and agronomists."
* Full report in Stock Journal, November 28 issue, 2013.