PULSE producers this year have been crossing their fingers that there is enough moisture in the profile to finish the crop and that frost does not burn off flowers, with fungal disease not a major priority due to the dry.
However, trials being conducted at a pulse agronomy site at Horsham have shown how susceptible crops such as chickpeas are to disease if not managed properly.
Josh Fanning, pulse pathologist with Agriculture Victoria, said ascochyta blight was still a major threat to untreated crops even in dry years and that some varieties were more susceptible than others.
However, he added there was no strong form of resistance in chickpea populations, especially since a mutation in the ascochyta pathogen in 2017.
"I'm hopeful something will be developed, there is plenty of research being done in finding something, perhaps in wild relatives of the plant, so that will help minimise our reliance on fungicides."
In the meantime, he said farmer hygiene and solid rotations would help keep risks, not just of ascochyta, but of other problem fungal disease, to a minimum.
"Not trying to grow pulses in a tight rotation is a good way to reduce inoculum."
He said lentil producers in the Yorke Peninsula, one of Australia's largest lentil growing regions had run into much worse problems with disease than in Victoria and that could be partially attributed to much more frequent lentil crops.
"Some farmers were in a wheat-lentil-wheat-lentil rotation, which really pushes your risk right up."
In northern NSW, during the chickpea boom of 2016-17 there were also farmers pushing the envelope with chickpea on chickpea plantings.
Wimmera-based agronomist Brad Jackson, Tyler's Rural, based in Rupanyup, said he felt many farmers in his area still had vivid memories of the devastating 1998 ascochyta outbreak, which virtually decimated the region's chickpea industry.
"It may mean that people just aren't willing to push rotations to chase the high price crops because they have seen what happens when you get a disease that you don't have options to manage."
Sara Blake, SARDI research scientist, specialising in faba beans, said there was not a lot of disease pressure in beans this year due to the dry conditions.
She said farmers could minimise risks with fungal disease by choosing varieties with a low disease rating.
"That means looking past some of the older varieties such as Farah and Fiesta and trying to choose those with a better disease resistance package.
"It can also mean making sure you don't use farmer retained seed for too many years in a row.
"Faba beans are open pollinated so the varietal purity is lost in retained seed which obviously can impact the resistance of the next generation of plants."
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