The Australian Mungbean Association has announced the commercialisation of the latest variety released from the National Mungbean Improvement Program, a new black gram variety named ‘Onyx-AU’.
Black gram (Vigna mungo) is a close relative to green mungbean (Vigna radiata) but with a black seed coat and white kernel. It has distinctly different biology, production and markets to green mungbean.
Until now, Regur has been the only black gram variety available for Australian growers to access this niche market in Australia and overseas.
AMA president Mark Schmidt said Onyx-AU would help expand and grow the export market of Australian mungbeans.
“Filling the premium markets and having supply 12 months of the year is our first goal, after this we would look to compete in the massive Indian market,” he said.
“Onyx-AU will not compete with its green mungbean counterparts in the market place.”
Onyx-AU is a direct replacement for Regur, which was released to industry in 1975, and is the first black gram variety developed through the National Mungbean Improvement Program (NMIP).
Onyx-AU joins a line of successful releases from the NMIP, a co-investment of the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) and the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).
At the official release of the new black gram variety in early November, Dr Rex Williams, DAF’s Director of Crop Improvement spoke enthusiastically about the potential of the new black gram variety to help develop a small but important market.
“Most people are now familiar with the high quality green mungbeans grown in Australia and with the release of Onyx-AU there is scope for black gram production to steadily grow and capture some of the premium global market for this specialty pulse,” he said.
Mr Chris Murphy, GRDC Business Development and Commercialisation manager (north) said the NMIP was a very successful plant breeding program that has been running since 2003, having provided a high return on investment, with a cost-benefit ratio of around 12 to 1.
“GRDC and DAF have been long term co-investors in the NMIP, along with the AMA as the commercial partner, and we welcome the recent contributions of the Queensland University or Technology and the University of Southern Queensland to the future development of mungbean varieties with improved yield and disease resistance,” he said.
DAF’s senior plant breeder, Col Douglas said Onyx-AU had performed well in a limited number of trials in southern Queensland where it has been, on average, 11 per cent higher yielding than Regur.
“Onyx-AU is well-suited to the same areas where Regur has been produced successfully on the Darling Downs, northern New South Wales and Liverpool Plains,” he said. “It has not yet been evaluated in central Queensland.”
Black gram is generally considered more difficult to grow than green mungbean. Onyx-AU is a similar plant type and requires similar management to Regur, and is recommended to experienced black gram growers.
It flowers and sets pods from lower in the canopy so the selection of level and uniform paddocks is an even greater consideration than for green mungbean. Recognition of crop growth stages and effective scouting and management of insect pests demands more care than in the production of green mungbean. Onyx-AU reaction to halo blight is superior to current large green-seeded mungbean varieties, such as Crystal and Jade-AU.
Black gram is a specialty market and consultation with the marketer is recommended before making the decision to plant. There is some scope for larger volumes to satisfy the growing demand for Australian-produced black gram due to its superior quality compared to product from other countries.
Like all the current varieties of green mungbean, Onyx-AU is also protected under the Plant Breeder’s Rights (PBR) legislation. Growers can only retain seed from their production of Onyx-AU for their own use.
A seed royalty, which includes breeder royalties, applies at the point of sale. This royalty contributes directly to the NMIP and is re-invested in research to develop future mungbean varieties.
Australian Mungbean Association (AMA) seed committee convenor, Geoff Birch said the $270,000 royalty cheque recently presented to DAF and the GRDC was testimony to the effectiveness of the NMIP, which has so far delivered five new mungbean varieties to meet the needs of the industry.