Little known pulse could become Australia's summer chickpea

Little known pulse could become Australia's summer chickpea

Cropping
Pigeon peas are an important food source in India and Africa.

Pigeon peas are an important food source in India and Africa.

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A pulse crop best known in Australia for its ability to attract insects gets massive demand from India and Africa and is tough and hardy.

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A QUEENSLAND researcher has said a crop best known in Australia for its ability to attract insects could in time become an important cash crop.

Speaking at the Australian Pulse Conference in Horsham earlier this month Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) director of crop improvement and research, development and extension Rex Williams said pigeon peas could become entrenched in northern cropping zone as a summer crop pulse option.

"Pigeon peas are one of the most widely consumed pulses, they are an important ingredient in the Indian staple of dhal and they are also widely consumed in Africa," Dr Williams said.

"Going forward I see strong demand from both those regions while domestically we are hearing about the increased demand for plant protein and pigeon peas also tick the box there."

"I see no reason they could not eventually become the summer croppers' chickpea here in Australia.

Dr Williams said the pigeon pea was suited to Australia's erratic rainfall and often poor soils.

"It can tolerate low rainfall and poor soil, so I don't see why the crop could not seriously challenge mung beans as the best broadacre, dryland summer cropping option in subtropical Australia."

However, while he was bullish on the potential of pigeon peas he acknowledged there would also be obstacles to overcome.

"The plant is very prone to insect infestation, indeed the major reason it is grown in Australia is to keep insects away from cotton crops."

"You would need to work on some things, but the breeders would not be starting from scratch, there was work on the crop here in the 1980s and India has run a pigeon pea breeding program for decades."

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