GROWERS considering their pulse sowing programs should look at the long-term fundamentals in the market, rather than the recent dip in the market due to the Indian chickpea tariffs.
This was one of the messages from Pulse Australia chairman Ron Storey, who was a keynote speaker at the GRDC update held in Adelaide on Tuesday.
“Believing the pulse bubble has burst is short-term thinking. In my view, pulses have a significant part to play in the global food challenge in front of us,” he said.
“Pulses tick all the boxes on the human nutrition and environmental front, as well as being affordable.”
Mr Storey said he could see demand for pulses growing from Asian markets, due to the well-known health benefits of the product.
When talking with Chinese officials, Mr Storey had been told that while they wanted western food, they did not want the diseases that often went along with it.
“They’re looking at their health budgets for 40 years to 50 years’ time, particularly with an ageing population, and they’re wanting food with positive impacts,” he said.
Mr Storey said work was being done to incorporate pulses into everyday foods, with one United States company adding pulse flours to bakery products.
Another keynote speaker was research engineer Martin Abell, from Harper Adams University in the United Kingdom.
Mr Abell was part of the Hands Free Hectare Project – a feasibility study based on automated broadacre agriculture.
It involved growing a barley crop on one hectare paddock in the UK, without one step being set upon the field.
He said the project was not without its challenges.
“Having no agronomists in the field is hard,” he said.
“You can have drones taking pictures, but without looking at the crop in the paddock it’s harder to ground-truth what you’re seeing.”
To address the issue, project participants had a rover collect soil and plants, to help with crop monitoring.
While the study successfully proved that automated farming could be done, it was behind the UK average for yields.
“We produced 4.5 tonnes to the hectare, and the national average for spring barley is 5.5-6t/ha, with the best farmers going up to 9t/ha,” Mr Abell said.
He said one of the big benefits of the project was the positive media that surrounded it.
“In the UK, nine out of 10 stories on agriculture are negative, so it’s really good to put a positive story out there,” he said.
SARDI soil biology and molecular diagnostics group leader Alan McKay was awarded the well-regarded GRDC southern region Seed of Light award at the update.