Cropping systems being assessed at KRS

Callen Thompson, Senior Extension Agronomist and Teagan Alexander, Technical Officer, Katherine

Growing irrigated and dryland crops through the wet has kept KRS technical staff busy of late. They are currently growing soybeans for grain and burgundy bean and cavalcade for hay.


The soybeans are being grown in partnership with Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) to assess the economic viability and agronomic suitability of soybeans in northern Australia. The Hayman variety is currently being grown; this variety was bred by Andrew James (CSIRO) and is marketed through Seednet. Hayman is a high yielding variety that has the ability to produce high quality grain that can be used to make tofu. The trial also has an evaluation strip of an experimental variety (Andrew James, CSIRO).

Half the paddock is being irrigated when required and the other half is rain fed only. The purpose of this is to evaluate the potential of soybeans as a dryland crop. Given the current 2017 wet season conditions there is very little difference in growth, though we would suggest that this is not a “normal” season and dryland production would be a greater risk than irrigated. We will investigate both the agronomic and economic factors of these two irrigation management options.

One of the benefits of Hayman soybeans is the high amount of dry matter produced. Producers in Northern NSW are growing Hayman as high protein hay and silage crops. In a dryland situation, NT producers may look at sowing Hayman as an each way bet. If the season is good, and there is a high possibility of receiving good grain yields, producers would take the crop through to harvest. If the season is poor or the wet season is short, they would have the option to cut for hay or silage. Due to the desiccation of the plant when producing grain, it is not viable to bale the stubble after the grain is harvested.

Burgundy BeansBurgundy beans

Burgundy beans are being trialled to possibly offer an alternative to cavalcade as they both have a high protein content, high palatability and act as a nitrogen fixer.  Two burgundy bean varieties, garnet and presto, have been supplied by Heritage Seeds. Again one half of the paddock is irrigated and the other half is dryland. Yield and quality will be assessed and compared to the industry standard, cavalcade.

The two varieties of burgundy bean are new to the Territory. The dryland bay will be managed as producers currently grow cavalcade and dry matter yield will be collected and compared. The irrigated bay will be assessed to see how much dry season production is achieved. It is hoped that garnet, having some cold tolerance, will produce more growth in the dry season. Both management strategies will be grown through the year and the economics of irrigating through the dry season will be assessed.

The economics of both soybean and burgundy bean grown under the different management strategies will be assessed at the end of the field work. It is not expected that soybeans under overhead irrigation sourced from ground water will be economically profitable. The economics may be profitable in a dry land crop (season dependent) or in a cropping system that is fed by surface water such as the Ord irrigation scheme. Once the dam and water reticulation system is built, this is a more cost effective source of irrigation water.

If you are interested in learning more about the crops at Katherine Research Station, come along to our field walk Tuesday the 4 April at 9.00am. For more information contact Callen Thompson 8973 9724.

Last updated: 20 September 2019


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