A FEW years ago, growers in the Mid North wanted some new solutions to plaguing problems when growing pulses and a senior researcher took on the challenge - despite being sure she already knew "everything" about frost damage.
SARDI scientist Penny Roberts thought she "had the frost thing sorted" but it turned out she needed to get stuck into new trial work.
"I thought I knew frost back to front but after a year of research at Farrell Flat last year, the trial failed to deliver any feasible results to turn into a research paper," she said.
So after that first year, Dr Roberts reevaluated and took a different approach to frost and pulses, in particular lentils.
Through the additional support from the GRDC and SA Grains Industry Trust, the aim of the MNHRZ Frost Learning Centre's trial work in 2021 was to look at management strategies for pulses in frosty environments.
Crop protection was a focus and was trialled with mixed species cropping to offer that protection.
Dr Roberts said the trial was novel research and to reach the point of forming an agronomic package for growers, would require more time.
But she urged growers to not be despondent and rather, get excited.
"We saw very little pod damage during a peak frost period - so this was very exciting," Dr Roberts said.
Last year's season delivered just below the long-term average for rainfall until about June, so there was a lot of soil moisture lost at the start of the growing season.
"But that was made up for in June and July where we recorded above average rainfall," Dr Roberts said.
The pulse crops were sown on May 20, with crop emergence recorded in early June.
"The establishment was good," Dr Roberts said.
With the nuts and bolts of the trial underway, intercropping with faba beans, barley and canola was the next part of trial that revealed "something new" for growers.
Basically, by changing the canopy structure around the lentil plant, the pods can be protected from reproductive frost damage.
Lentils were sown in its own row, next to one or two skip rows of physically taller crops.
"The concept of protecting the lentil plant works," Dr Roberts said.
"The idea was that those crop canopies would sit above the lentils."
After a damaging reproductive frost in mid October, lentil pods were counted and very little frost damage was recorded.
"In three of the six intercrop treatments, there was less pod damage in intercrop rows, compared to sole lentil rows," Dr Roberts said.
"The canopy was doing something and the rows with faba beans had even less frost damaged pods than those with canola or barley."
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