RAINFALL across Victoria and South Australia of up to 80mm last week generally was not particularly welcome, coming too late to be of much benefit for most crops.
However, a pulse agronomist with Agriculture Victoria said rainfall will help chickpeas reflower and eventually help replace some of the pods lost to frost at the start of November.
Jason Brand said the rain would help redeem frost-impacted chickpea yields in Victoria in particular.
“The chickpeas will definitely reflower, some of them had already started flowering again after the frost in spite of there being little available moisture.
“With many areas receiving around 40mm you would expect the plants to reflower and have enough moisture to set more seed.”
Dr Brand said the recovery process would be similar to the frost itself – patchy.
“You will get guys who were not hit that hard by frost and this rain will completely negate yield lost to frost and you will get others where the damage will be more severe than the new yield, it will just depend on how bad the frost was in the paddock and how much rain they had.”
Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) president and Wimmera chickpea producer David Jochinke was less upbeat than Dr Brand on the potential yield boost from the rain, but agreed it may lead to something being salvaged from the season.
“I lost virtually everything with the frost on crops that I thought might do around two tonnes to the hectare,” Mr Jochinke said.
“With the reflowering, I might get something back, but 0.5t/ha would be an awesome result, having said that the plant architecture is there, the flowers are there so that is a good start.”
Given Kabuli chickpea prices sit at $1200 a tonne, even 0.5t/ha would represent a net profit given normal production costs.
Dr Brand said he expected all crops with green in them to respond to the rain.
He even suggested later lentil crops in the Wimmera hit by the frost could reflower, but added that as they were later in their development there was likely to be less benefit from the rain.
Dr Brand said growers were taking the potential windfall seriously.
“The prices are high so even a little seed is worth aiming for, so I’ve even heard of people contemplating an ultra-late season fungicide should the crop be at a stage where it will still benefit from it.”
The improvement in crop condition may not be finished yet, with another moderate rain event expected to cross south-eastern Australia on Friday.