A pulse crop in central Queensland usually comes in the form of chickpeas or mungbeans, but this winter, growers in the Dawson Valley have trialled faba beans.
Matthew Erbacher, Hush-A-Bye Plains, Theodore, has grown a quarter of a hectare of faba beans as part of the GRDC's Pulse Check project.
With the goal of broadening pulse production by diversifying and increasing the area planted, the project aims to provide growers and their advisers with the information and resources needed to make informed decisions about pulse production in their region.
As part of the project, local Pulse Check coordinator Damien Erbacher conducted a situational analysis with growers and industry in the Dawson and Callide Valleys to identify opportunities, benefits and constraints to improve or develop profitable pulse production systems.
"One of the main things that came up was we need more options for pulses because we only have mungbeans in summer and chickpeas in winter," Damien said.
"We planted at the beginning of May, with a full profile of moisture. They're difficult to plant because they're a broad bean, so they're really big, and we had some blockage issues so the strike's not that great."
Receiving 36mm of in-crop rain within the first month of planting, Damien said the dryland crop had grown well.
"We would have liked to have gotten the crop in a bit earlier, but it hasn't done too bad," he said.
"We've probably got somewhere around a tonne to the acre (yield), so that's pretty good."
Damien said the trial was all about looking for options.
"It's not just about the crop; it's maybe that they can be planted a month earlier than the chickpeas and therefore you maybe don't have to plant deep, or plant on rainfall in March."
Despite minimal in-crop rain, Damien said the trial had given him the confidence to keep looking at the potential of growing faba beans in central Queensland.
"Possibly plant them a little bit earlier and just a little bit of rainfall in crop, normally you get a couple of inches, that would really help," he said.
"They've got massive potential because they put on a massive amount of flowers. With a bit more moisture, they're such a big seed that you don't need many more seeds and you're really increasing your yield."
Damien said like all crops, the market and yield would influence growers' decisions to plant faba beans.
"They do go up and down a bit in their market; most of Australia's go for human consumption overseas and they really are high protein," he said.
"In Europe, a lot of their crops go to piggeries and feedlots so there's potential there as well, we just have to convert the feedlots to use it."
The patches of green that marked winter crops across CQ have now turned gold and headers are gearing up to enter paddocks, if they haven't already done so.
Matthew Erbacher is also preparing to put the header into 135 hectares of chickpeas and 360ha of wheat.
Damien Erbacher, Dawson Ag Consulting, said apart from not enough rain, the season had been pretty good.
"Two or three inches of rain a couple months ago would have been absolutely brilliant," he said.
"The chickpeas aren't too bad, they weren't a full profile of moisture but they're good for what they had."
Like many growing regions this winter, Damien said crops in the Dawson Valley had been highly variable.
"Guys who planted early and on marginal moisture, they might have harvested something but it's minimal. And then there's stuff on a full profile of moisture.
"Overall, it would have to be down on area; 80 per cent is wheat and 20pc chickpeas, whereas three years ago it was the other way around.
"But that's based on price and guys are realising they need stubble cover after chickpeas and mungbeans."