The United Nations has declared 2016 as the International Year of Pulses, we are going one step further and calling this the year of one pulse in particular, the chickpea.
The aim of the International Year of Pulses is to promote the value and utilization of pulses throughout the food system, their benefits for soil fertility and their role in combating malnutrition and obesity.
However, with a record-breaking chickpea harvest in full swing, Queensland is proving that it is well aware of not only the benefits of pulses for soil nutrition but that Queensland producers are also reaping the benefits of the high-global demand pushing up the commodity prices.
Chickpeas are a staple in many parts of the world as a major source of protein and with an ordinary crop in India leading to shortages around the world the Australian crop is in hot demand. This has all lead to this certain pulse never being more popular among Queensland farmers than now.
AgForce sat down with Theodore grain producer and contractor Jordan Anderson to hear his thoughts on the year of the pulse/chickpea as he was getting ready for not only the bumper harvest season to begin but also the birth of his second child.
“I think (the Year of the Pulse) is a great idea, they are such a practical crop having the ability to fix nitrogen in the soil and we will continue to utilize them within our rotation,” Mr Anderson said.
“Not only are they beneficial for the soil health, they are also a great source of protein for our diets. Unfortunately, they don’t feature in many Australian’s diets because we don’t generally know how to cook them.
“I was talking to a mate the other day who after I told him that my winter crop was chickpeas he told me how he had tried to use them to bulk up a meat dish and he was complaining how the kids nearly broke their teeth. “I told him that you have to soak or roast them before adding them to a meal.
“When you go to the supermarket and buy them in a tin they are already soaked and people forget that this is an important process when eating them raw.
“Because our meat is relatively cheap and great quality, Australians haven’t seen the need to rely on pulses for our protein (unless you’re a vegetarian). Whereas in other countries where they can’t afford to purchase meat, pulses are their cheapest source of protein.
“This is one of the reasons Australia exports over 95% of its chickpeas. This number seems large but considering we are the second largest producers of chickpeas in the world we are (weather permitting) still looking at a 1.7 million tonne crop this year. To put this into perspective in a normal year, India alone would produce in excess of nine million tonne.
“Chickpeas are definitely here to stay within our cropping enterprise and even if the price drops back to $400 a tonne in a few years, we will still be utilizing them not only for nitrogen fixation but to also help break the lifestyle of cereal pests, diseases and weed control.
“Obviously we still need cereals for our stubble cover, even if it is only worth $200 a tonne this year, we will still need to put stubble back in the ground.
“Another stand out positive for the chickpea crop is having the ability to plant them on time and at a depth that most other crops could not push through.
“For instance, this year we planted the majority of our crop 6-8 inches deep starting late in the second week of May and ending with the last 85ha going in dry, prior to a 30mm fall that night in late June.
“This year cash flow has depicted why chickpeas have been so popular, but in the following years it will be about soil condition and crop rotation.”
But with a record-breaking crop comes the monumental task of harvesting and transporting your grain to be exported. With Jordan running a contracting business with his brother Regan he has a few things to say about transportation of oversized equipment.
“In my contracting business the biggest impediment is transport and trying to make everything legal.
“At the moment it is an absolute headache trying to work within size limits that don’t reflect the size of machinery in 2016.
“I have been working with the AgForce Grains Policy Advisor Zach Whale, Transport and Main Roads and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator on this very issue. Any grain grower in Queensland knows exactly what I’m talking about when I say that the regulations don’t suit today’s farming environment or equipment.
“The process is complicated, time consuming and intersects all levels of Government with regulations not keep pacing with machinery changes.
“This is why I find it important to be a member of AgForce, the grain industry needs a voice in Queensland and Zach and the team are able to be continually working on these issues while we get on with the job of growing grain.
“My parents have been members for as long as I can remember and when I moved back to the farm full-time after diesel fitting in Rockhampton for a few years I also became a member.”