Australian Mungbean Association

Australian-grown mungbeans have quality written all over them!

Mungbean management guide

Mungbean is a valuable summer crop as it is relatively drought-tolerant, quick-maturing and requires minimal fertiliser input.

Mungbeans or green gram (Vigna radiata) are a short-season indeterminate small-seeded tropical pulse crop originating from the northeast India/Burma region of Asia. They are closely related to black gram (Vigna mungo) and adzuki (Vigna angularis). Mungbeans are a high protein human food crop. Seed appearance and quality are of paramount importance. Nearly all (95%) of the Australian mungbean crop is bagged, containerised and exported. All stages of crop production and processing have to comply with strict hygiene practices to ensure the crop meets the highest standards for food safety and hygiene.

The Australian mungbean industry maintains the highest standards of hygienic practices including the traceability of product from the farm gate to the final client. Quality assurance processes in Australia include:

  • Growers sign a ‘Grower Commodity Declaration’ that contains all of the details relating to planting, growing, harvesting and transport of the product to minimise risk of contamination.
  • All Australian mungbeans are machine dressed, gravity graded and bagged through registered establishments.
  • All products are inspected by Australian Quarantine & Inspection Services (AQIS) to ensure they meet the import requirements and standards of international buyers.
  • All shipping containers must be of food quality, and inspected by an AQIS approved person prior to loading.

Many of the countries that compete with Australia in the international mungbean market use traditional farming methods and hand-harvest their mungbeans. Although labour-intensive, hand-harvesting results in a grain product with exceptional seed quality. In order to compete in the same markets the Australian industry has sought to develop varieties and management practices that enable our growers to produce high quality mungbeans under mechanised production systems.

The quality of mungbean seed is important as processors need unmixed varieties with a high germination percentage. Although sprouting beans attract higher prices, processing beans are more popular as the quality standards are not quite as strict. Insect damage is one of the main reasons for downgrading.

 

Incorporating mungbean in the crop rotation

Mungbean fit well in a broadacre farming enterprise based on winter cereals or summer crops. They help break disease cycles, particularly cereal root and crown rots, and leave the soil in a ‘soft’ condition.

Mungbeans are a very quick crop, taking 70 to 80 days from planting to maturity. This rapid maturity combined with the fact that mungbeans commonly only utilise the top 60 to 80 cm of soil moisture, means mungbeans are one of the most water efficient summer crops available.

Being a legume, mungbeans have a lower fertiliser requirement than other summer crop choices, with the added benefit of fixing nitrogen into the soil that is then available to the following crop. The end result is healthier soils and greater productivity from the following cereal crop.

Mungbeans are a great summer crop alternative to increase crop diversity and to manage agronomic, environmental and marketing risk. Being such a quick crop they often slot in between other summer crops allowing for better utilisation of farm labour and machinery.

There are two preferred planting windows for mungbeans – spring crop planted in Sept/Oct or summer crop planted in Dec/Jan. The most consistent results with spring plantings have been achieved with late September/early October plantings. Late October/November plantings are considered a riskier proposition because of the increased risk of experiencing dry, heat wave conditions on the emerging seedlings and when plants are flowering. Spring planted mungbeans can produce reasonable yields provided that attention is paid to:

  • stored moisture levels at planting (at least 90 cm of wet soil)
  • management of thrips on seedling plants
  • control of mirids at flowering
  • desiccation prior to harvest
  • reducing weed pressure, particularly in spring planting situations.

Late December and most of January is the ideal time for summer mungbeans and there are a range of situations to which they would be ideally suited including:

  • Double cropping into cereal stubble where a return to a summer crop in the following year is preferred.
  • Irrigation country where a low water use crop is the preference. With a good profile at planting and a fair summer, only one irrigation should be required. Their early harvest allows adequate time to prepare the ground for the next crop.
  • Adds another economical crop to the summer mix to spread the risk.

There are a number of important considerations when planning a mungbean crop. Briefly these are:

  • Secure the services of an AMA Certified Agronomist.
  • Plant on a minimum of 75 cm of subsoil moisture.
  • Selection a variety to suit preferred market, situation and sowing time.
  • Inoculate seed and plant to ensure a uniform plant stand.
  • Implement a crop monitoring program and control weeds and insects as appropriate.
  • Harvest on time and handle grain with care.

One of the most important considerations is to discuss the marketing opportunities and varieties with one or more of the mungbean processors and marketers.

 

Mungbean checklist

  • Discuss variety choice and marketing strategy with mungbean marketer.
  • Purchase Australian Mungbean Association approved seed or, if using grower-retained seed, test for germination % and vigour before planting and replace every three years.
  • Avoid paddocks with major variations in soil type or unevenness.
  • Assess weed status of the paddock (in-crop broadleaf weed control options are limited).
  • Stay within recommended planting windows.
  • Determine residual herbicide risks.
  • Fertilise according to paddock history (especially after a long fallow) and soil test analysis.
  • Ensure effective inoculation.
  • Ensure good, even plant establishment.
  • Monitor disease status in crop.
  • Timely insect control is essential. Check crops at least every week during vegetative stages and twice weekly from budding through to pod fill (depending on pest pressure).
  • Timely, effective desiccation before harvest.

 

Varieties

Many of the countries that compete with Australia in the international mungbean market use traditional farming methods and hand-harvest their mungbeans. Although labour-intensive, hand-harvesting results in a grain product with exceptional seed quality. Australian mungbeans are sold against hand-harvested product; so to compete effectively, the Australian industry has developed varieties and management practices that enable the production of high-quality mungbeans under mechanised production systems.

Marketing of your mungbeans and choice of variety go hand-in-hand as the first steps in integrating mungbeans into your farming system.

Variety factsheet

 

Planting guide

Mungbean varieties should be clearly separated at planting. Varietal mixtures are unacceptable in the market. Unless harvest equipment and storage facilities can be thoroughly cleaned, restrict planting to one variety.

The importance of achieving an even strike and even maturity cannot be over-emphasised. Taking extra care at planting can produce more uniform flowering, making insect management and harvesting more straightforward.

Plan an appropriate herbicide strategy within the preceding crop that will avoid the threat of residue problems in mungbeans.

Planting factsheet

 

Nutrition

Nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur and zinc levels are important for mungbean production. Long fallow disorder is common in mungbean crops sown into long-fallowed (12+ months) paddocks.

Nutrition factsheet

 

Weed management

Broadleaf weed control options are very limited in mungbeans, and growers should plan a weed strategy with their agronomist prior to planting.

Mungbean seed lots containing weed seeds can be difficult to sell, and can incur substantial discounts. Contamination of the sample with either grain sorghum seed or thornapple is of particular concern, as they are extremely difficult to remove by grading. These two weeds should be removed from the crop either with herbicides, or by hand roguing.

Weed management factsheet

 

Disease management

The main diseases of mungbean are powdery mildew, tan spot, halo blight, charcoal rot, gummy pod, puffy pod disorder, legume little leaf phytoplasma and tobacco streak virus (TSV).

Disease management factsheet.

 

Insect management

Insect pests can significantly reduce the profitability of mungbean, through reduced yield and seed quality. Accordingly, insect damage is one of the main reasons for downgrading mungbeans.

Crops should be inspected at least weekly during the vegetative stages and twice weekly from budding onwards (depending on pest pressure). While early damage is less likely, high pest pressure in seedling/early vegetative crops can severely reduce yield potential.

The main insect pests of mungbean are helicoverpa, mirids, green vegetable bug, redbanded shield bug, large and small brown bean bugs, bean podporer and thrips.

Insect management factsheet

 

Irrigation

Mungbeans are highly efficient users of water and usually do not respond to irrigation during podding. They are sensitive to excessive waterlogging and the importance of good layout and drainage cannot be over-emphasised.

Waterlogging events lasting more than five days can cause root nodules to die back, often causing nitrogen deficiency problems in the crop.

Irrigation factsheet

 

Harvesting

Mungbeans have an indeterminate flowering habit. This means that they do not have a defined flowering period and will continue to flower while there is adequate soil moisture. Consequently, they can have flowers, green pods and black pods present on the plant at the same time. This growth habit can make the harvesting decision difficult.

The ideal stage for harvest to maximise yield and quality is when the majority of pods are physiologically mature and 90% of the pods have turned yellow through to black. At this stage the crop should be considered ready for desiccation and harvest.

Harvest and desiccation factsheet

 

Marketing

The mungbean marketing system is unique, particularly in comparison with those used for other pulse and grain crops. To be successful growers need to understand the mungbean consumers’ fundamental requirements, including:

  • Consumers purchase mungbeans based on physical appearance.
  • The marketing of mungbeans to other countries is not unlike marketing our vegetable crops in Australia. The buyer places a high degree of emphasis on product familiarity, appearance and quality. These markets also tend to be highly volatile, reflecting changes in supply and demand.

If the Australian mungbean crop were to be accumulated as one bulk commodity, the whole crop would be downgraded to the lowest quality, resulting in lower returns for the majority of mungbean growers.

Growers should consult their local Australian Mungbean Association member for the latest prices and marketing information.

Grower commodity declarations are required by packing sheds to maintain high levels of hygiene and food safety within the Australian mungbean industry. The information provided on the forms is the basis of an industry-wide quality assurance scheme that is a significant advantage in marketing the Australian mungbean crop to overseas and domestic buyers.

The AMA is the peak industry body representing mungbean growers and marketers in Australia.

Marketing factsheet

 

Accredited mungbean agronomists

DAF, Pulse Australia and the Australian Mungbean Association offer a series of training courses for agronomists. This training is necessary as mungbean management requires specialist technical knowledge and practical skills. This course provides agronomists with the most current research information and best management practices required to assist growers to achieve more reliable and profitable mungbean production.

The program consists of a 2-stage accreditation process:

  • a structured 2-day technical workshop
  • detailed in-crop monitoring.

Once these 2 stages are complete and the participant is deemed to meet industry best management practice the participant becomes an ‘accredited mungbean agronomist’.

If you are considering growing mungbeans it is strongly suggested that you employ the services of an accredited mungbean agronomist to ensure that you are receiving the highest possible standard of service, and maximise your profitability.

Find an accredited agronomist in your district.

 

Gross margins

The gross margins presented below do not represent current costs or pricing. They have been calculated on indicative prices and retail costs in the past and are provided as a guide only to assist in the preparation of individual on-farm budgets. Actual gross margins are likely to vary considerably from those presented below.

Approved mungbean seed for planting.

Desiccated mungbean ready for harvest.

Dried mungbean products.

Mungbean sprouts and pastry products.

Irrigated mungbean.

www.mungbean.org.au