Risks and rewards of growing pulse crops in the low rainfall Mallee cropping region

Michael Moodie1, Todd McDonald1, Nigel Wilhelm2, and Ray Correll3

1 Frontier Farming Systems, 7B Byrne Ct, Mildura, Victoria, 3500, www.frontierfarming.com.au, michael@frontierfarming.com.au

2South Australian Research & Development Institute, PO Box 397, Adelaide, South Australia 5001

3RHO Environmetrics, PO 366 Highgate, SA, 5064


The adoption of pulse crops in low rainfall cropping regions such as the Mallee is increasing.  While the farming system benefits of pulse crops are clear, there is a lack of regionally available data to support grower decisions on the most profitable pulse crops to select.  Over three contrasting seasons, we directly compared pulse crop productivity on four regionally important soil types in the South Australian Mallee.  Overall, most pulse crops had similar productivity potential but the yields were highly influenced by seasonal conditions and soil type.  Season had the greatest impact on productivity with yields almost four times more in a high rainfall (decile 8-10) year than in a low (decile 2-4) rainfall season.  Pulse crop yields also varied by up to 60 percent between soil types.  The highest and least variable grain yields were achieved on the sandy loam – loam soil types, with lower productivity and high yield variability obtained on both the heavy and sandy soils.  Subsequent Monte Carlo simulation using @Risk quantified the risk and reward profile of each crop for Mallee farming systems.  The analysis showed that lentils had both the greatest profit potential and lowest financial risk of all pulse crops over the long term.  Vetch, chickpea and field pea are expected to generate long term gross margins of more than $200/ha.  Chickpea and field pea are expected to have a negative gross margin in more than 30% of years but a high gross margin (>$500/ha) is expected in nearly one in five seasons.  This information will allow Mallee growers to make more informed selections of the most appropriate pulse crops for their farming system.


The Australian Society of Agronomy is the professional body for agronomists in Australia. It has approximately 500 active members drawn from government, universities, research organisations and the private sector.

Photo Credits

David Marland Photography david_marland@hotmail.com Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, Charles Sturt University

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