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Alberta Farm Girl Goes for a Walkabout (PCN Winter 2014) JAN 23 2014 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News

This article appeared in the Winter 2014 issue of Pulse Crop News.

Pulse Breeding Australia Inaugural Conference

Date: October 21-24, 2013
Location: Adelaide Australia

It may seem insane to fly 22 hours for a three day stay only to turn around and fly 24 hours home. But I can assure you I would do it again without hesitation.

The invitation to attend this event had been extended to me a year ago by Jenny Davidson, Australia’s leading pulse pathologist, when the planning was still in its infancy. Australia has not had a conference with a pulse focus in years and it was time. The idea was brilliant; bring together pulse breeders, agronomists, dealers, retailers, nutritionists, and chefs to learn about what one another do. This forum also provided a vehicle to share success stories and challenges and presented the opportunity to work together as a unit to address these.

In the three days of the conference I was able to re-connect with researchers that had visited Canada, meet many individuals involved in pulse research, growing, restaurateuring; I also sampled numerous pulse dishes prepared by a master Chef.

Day 1: Field day

A group of about 150 toured a sampling of the varietal development of faba beans, lentils, lupins, field peas, and chickpeas. Researches focusing on the herbicide tolerance of various lines, stubble management practices, disease and weed management were all highlighted.

A quick summary of what I learned in the field:

  • Faba beans have been a significant export crop since 1994 when the Fiesta variety was released. This is a larger bean than had been previously produced and the Egyptian market demand for this bean exploded. Lodging can be an issue when high winds occur and chocolate spot, Ascochyta and rust can be the biggest detriments to the yield. In certain growing regions, Breeding efforts are making slow progress in resistance.
  • Lupins grown in Australia contribute 30-34% of global production, the majority of lupin acres are grown in New South Wales. Lupin flour is extremely popular amongst dieticians; research has shown huge health benefits with regular consumption. Lupin flour is extremely versatile and easily incorporated into existing recipes and is the choice alternative to wheat for many in the food service industry.
  • Forage peas are a popular choice in some regions and there is an active breeding program for forage peas. Peas are either harvested prior to podding and baled or sown with oats for the same purpose.
  • Field peas and lentils are both major pulse crops in certain areas and states. These crops can have very little disease pressure, as time of sowing can be altered to reduce the risk of aschochyta.
  • Chickpeas are not a major crop in Australia as Canada has well established them in the Kabuli market.
  • One of the day’s highlights was a presentation by Eric Johnson, AAFC Scott, SK who talked in general about pulse production in Canada and some of the herbicides he is trialling to determine efficacy against resistant weeds.

Day 2 & 3

Our second day began with an inspiring presentation from Hakan Bahceci, the chair of CICILS IPTIC (The International Pulse Trade Organization). He is also the founder of the largest privately owned pulse trading company in the world. He spoke of the advantages and disadvantages that Australia faces in the global market place. Year of the Pulse was also introduced to the group; this event has been proposed for 2016 and has huge potential to promote a healthy, hunger free and sustainable world.

The morning culminated with an expert panel which included a master chef, a self-taught restaurateur, a dietician as well as a buyer/dealer. This was a highlight for me and provided a lot of opportunity for interaction between the breeders, producers, and the panel.

Varietal development through trait improvements and better agronomics for varieties within various environments are key objectives of the pulse breeders in Australia.

Growers had an opportunity to present challenges, successes, and marketing from a producer perspective. Research initiatives focused on stubble management, seed quality parameters, weed management, disease management, and nitrogen fixation were all presented by various research groups. Presentations also touched on Market potential, the push-pull of grower versus splitter, quality issues, consumer demand, and key international pulse markets.

Key to the success of this conference was bringing together all facets of the pulse value chain and integrating each stakeholder in the day’s agendas to ensure that all perspectives were heard and the dialogue was open and candid. The strength of Canada’s pulse industry was often mentioned with high regard.

The parallels between Australia and Canada in terms of pulse challenges and successes are striking. While the minute details may differ, the overarching themes are consistent and there is much synergy to be found in building networks and learning about the pulse industry down under.