WA growers returning to chickpeas after decade-long break

The Year of the Pulse has seen a resurgence of chickpeas in the northern agricultural region of Western Australia.

Australia is the world’s largest exporter of chickpeas, with 95 per cent of the 650,000 tonne annual crop exported mainly to India. The pulse is widely grown in eastern Australia, but Western Australian volumes have been almost non-existent for the past 10 years.

Grain marketing company Ten Tigers director Chris Tonkin said the pulse fell out of favour due to disease issues, but that was changing, with up to 5,000 hectares planted to the crop this year. “In the last two years we’ve seen, particularly in the Geraldton port zone, so going north of Perth, we have seen an increase in the hectares going into chickpeas in particular, and also Albus lupins, which have made comeback,” Mr Tonkin said. “We are seeing a similar sort of a movement down in the Esperance region and across to Albany with field peas and lentils.”

Amery Drage plans to grow chickpeas again after producing his first crop this year.

Amery Drage plans to grow chickpeas again after producing his first crop this year.

At the northern end of the Western Australian agricultural region, Northampton farmer Amery Drage has just harvested his first chickpea crop. He said he had been looking for alternative crops to increase rotation options, and chickpea was suggested.

“We know that they used to grow quite a bit of them years ago, so we thought we would have a go with the new varieties,” Mr Drage said.

While he is happy with a 1.5 tonne per hectare yield for the first attempt, Mr Drage is confident he can achieve more with experience and better weed control. “Given the learning about them, what to do and what not to do, I think next year we will definitely give them another go,” he said. “They grew in this climate well and we didn’t have any other issues, so we’ll have another go and see what we can push out of them.”

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