Australian Mungbean Association

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Coastal mungbean—quick and valuable

MSF Sugar group agronomist Andrew Dougall sees great benefits in the quick growth of mungbean and the potential for planting in either September or January while still being able to plant cane in autumn. (Photo: Cindy Benjamin)


28 November, 2015

by Cindy Benjamin


Sugarcane and legumes are great partners in coastal farming systems. Over the last decade or so MSF Sugar group agronomist Andrew Dougall has used soybeans, peanuts and mungbeans at various times to add to the profitability and sustainability of the company’s farming system in Maryborough.

“This year we have 37 ha of mungbean sown in a sharefarming arrangement with Elton Peterson,” says Andrew. “Mungbeans are a quick crop and have the flexibility of a fairly wide planting window that usually allows us to harvest the grain and still have time to prepare the ground for planting cane in autumn.”

At the end of each cane cycle MSF Sugar have a farm goal to plant 100 per cent of their fallow ground to a legume crop. If they decide to grow soybean or peanut then there is not sufficient time to plant cane in autumn so the blocks are left fallow over winter ready for spring plant.

“Although this is the first year that MSF Sugar has been involved with a mungbean crop on company land, several of our suppliers regularly grow mungbean and so there is a good body of experience with the crop in this district,” he says.

This year’s mungbeans were planted early, at the end of August into early September. Elton says the crop ran into some cool weather after planting and there has been more rain than needed, but the crop is tracking well and has started to pod.

“We expect to harvest around the end of December but there would still be time to plant mungbean in early January and harvest in late March, especially if the rows and beds are in good condition that allows direct drilling the cane,” he says.

While harvesting the grain will add to the overall profitability of the crop rotation, Andrew says the sale of grain is a bonus on top of the benefits of growing a legume crop.

While mungbeans do not return as much fixed nitrogen to the soil as peanuts or soybeans the ‘legume effect’ is still very evident in cane following a mungbean crop. “Legume root exudates have a very positive effect on soil structure and there is a noticable difference in the following sugarcane crop yield,” he says. “It is well worth the money to invest in irrigation if necessary and in good soil nutrition and insect and disease control.”

Insect pressure can be high around flowering and control can be difficult, particularly when managing pod-eating etiella grubs. “Very small etiella grubs enter the flowers or pods where they are effectively protected from insecticide sprays,” says Andrew. “It takes very careful monitoring and the ability to quickly respond, spraying the crops while the small grubs are still exposed.”

Once the grubs are inside the flowers or pods they can cause high levels of damage as they partially eat most of the seeds in a pod. This reduces yield but can also downgrade the quality of the consignment with damaged and broken grain that is hard to grade out.

Mungbeans have only recently been a viable option on the coast since the 2008 release of Crystal, the first variety with powdery mildew resistance, followed with the higher yielding Jade-AU variety in 2013.

Andrew says there are native rhizobia present in the soils around Maryborough that will colonise mungbean roots but he believes adding inoculum to the seed at planting is well worth the effort. Mungbean can also respond to foliar sprays of zinc and molybdenum, deficiencies that can be difficult to detect in soil tests.

“Being able to irrigate is very useful and gives us the greatest flexibility when planting,” he says. “If we need to, we can pre-water so we can plant early and then we are prepared to irrigate again just before flowering, although we had some excellent rain in recent weeks and I expect the crop won’t need any more irrigation this season.”

The MSF Sugar farms are all transitioning to fully controlled traffic systems that allow increased flexibility when it comes to harvesting in any weather. Ground cover across November and December is a priority for Andrew to protect the soil from erosion during summer storms.

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