11 December 1998

Local lupins could be protein import replacement in UK

By Simon Wragg

HOME-GROWN lupins could break the dependency on bought-in protein and increase income to livestock farms.

But until soya prices rise and lupin agronomy is more fully understood producer response is likely to remain lukewarm. That was the outcome of a meeting at ADAS Rosemaund to review progress of 10 growers on mixed units taking part in EU-funded lupin trials, two of whom had to abandon last seasons crops.

The other eight lupin growers achieved yields of between 2.4t/ha and 5t/ha (1t/acre and 2t/acre). According to ADAS agronomist John Spink one crop drilled at a low seed rate suffered a severe case of bean seed fly attack and had to be ploughed in. The other grower missed the drilling window of early to mid-September.

Although trials at the Institute of Arable Crop Research, Rothamsted, suggest lupins should be drilled in the first three weeks of September, experience at Rosemaund suggests crops grown in the west of England benefit from being drilled later.

Mr Spink told the meeting that most of the 10 local lupin crops had been drilled in the recommended period. But later drilled crops achieved up to a 1.2t/ha (0.5t/acre) yield advantage.

"Work at IACR suggests that in warm conditions, early drilled crops set a number of stem leaves which develop into side branches. These shade out main stem seed pods and limit yield," he said.

`Early drilled crops also tended to be taller, which could lead to an increased risk of lodging, he added. But there was a critical balance; late drilling increased risk of frost damage. IACR agronomists suggest lupin seedlings must be at the five-leaf stage to tolerate frost.

Lupins, like other low seed rate crops, are also susceptible to attack from bean seed fly, which severely attacked one producers crops. According to ADAS entomologist Roger Umpleby, the problem could be widespread. The first sign of attack is small, greyish coloured seedlings appearing in an otherwise healthy crop.

Mr Umpleby said the female bean seed fly laid eggs on bare soil, and once hatched, larvae searched for soft, fleshy plant material to attack. That could be surface and buried trash or lupin seedlings, said Mr Umpleby. "If larvae do not succeed in killing seedlings, they leave them open to disease."

Treated seed could reduce the risk of attack, and although not available in the UK, a legal loophole allowed producers to import treated seed from the Continent, added Mr Umpleby.

French varieties

According to Mr Spink that should not present a problem, as many varieties used in the UK are French, but it was suggested that some seed treatments could delay emergence and plant populations.

According to the Processors and Growers Research Organisations Kathy Knott, producers looking to buy treated seed abroad would be advised to select one with an insecticide guarding against bean seed fly attack and a fungicide for damping-off disease, which are both common problems.

Once established, lupin crops are open and susceptible to weed infestation. ADAS agronomist Derek Wade said herbicides recommended for use in lupins were limited, particularly for controlling broad leaved weeds.

Dr Wade told delegates: "ADAS is working with the PGRO and herbicide manufacturers to find cereal sprays which may be suitable for off-label use on lupins at the growers own risk."

During the first year of the project, herbicide trials in David Forbess lupin crop at Titley Court, Hereford, have proved successful at controlling grass and volunteer cereal weeds such as wild oats. But some herbicides in spring led to lodging in taller crops; ADAS and PRGO researchers are unsure why.

After a years trial, producers are in two minds about the crops viability, despite seeing the attraction of a home-grown protein with a 37% protein content. "My jury is still out," said Mr Forbes.

In a move to address producers concerns, researchers at ADASRosemaund have now established a series of trials looking at the effect of four seed rates on emergence and yield, pesticide use to control seed bean fly and 18 herbicide programmes for weed control.

Lupins at a glance

&#8226 Home-grown 37% protein crop.

&#8226 Sow at 40 plants a sq m.

&#8226 12cm (5in) rows/ 5cm (2in) depth.

&#8226 Yield of about 4t/ha (1.6t/acre).

&#8226 Variable costs of £145/ha (£59/acre).

&#8226 Eligible for area aid.

LUPINS AT A GLANCE

&#8226 Home-grown 37% protein crop.

&#8226 Sow at 40 plants a sq m.

&#8226 12cm (5in) rows/ 5cm (2in) depth.

&#8226 Yield of about 4t/ha (1.6t/acre).

&#8226 Variable costs of £145/ha (£59/acre).

&#8226 Eligible for area aid.