After an extended dry period with no significant rain, farmers in the Mallee region are facing the challenge of a late autumn break. With winter fast approaching, you might be wondering if legumes can still provide the benefits you’re looking for.

The most critical thing with a late start is to give the establishing seedling the best possible chance for success. Early growth in a late start is critical, so careful consideration should be given to protecting the seedling and ensuring minimum risk of checking, damaging, or stressing the young crop.

Timing of Sowing

With the season running late, timing is more crucial than ever. You’ll need to act quickly to get your legumes in the ground despite the lack of rain.

  • Opt for Quick-Germinating Species and Varieties: Choose legumes that can establish rapidly and mature early, such as field peas. Similarly, some species are better suited to later sowing, such as chickpea particularly if you have adequate subsoil moisture to finish the crop at the end of the season. Consider species selection and pick varieties that are better suited to shorter growing seasons or consider dropping out varieties with long maturity patterns. For example, choosing a lentil variety with an early-mid flowering and maturity compared to a mid-late flowering and maturity.
  • Select more Drought-Tolerant Species Varieties: Species such as lentil and chickpea are often more resilient in dry conditions when compared to crops like faba bean. This is particularly important when delayed sowing as the crop is more likely to experience higher temperatures in spring during the reproductive phases of crop growth.
  • Monitor Weather Closely and Consider Deep or Dry Sowing: Keep an eye on weather forecasts to seize any opportunity for moisture. Be ready to sow as soon as there’s a chance of rain. If you have subsoil moisture, consider sowing deeper into moisture to achieve an early germination, many pulse species are well suited to deep sowing on lighter soil including faba bean and lentil.

Paddock selection

  • Consider paddock conditions: With later sowing dates consideration should be given to crop height for shorter growing crops such as lentil and chickpea, this is particularly important for paddocks with potential harvestability issues such as rocks. Equally in areas or paddock at risk of erosion, crops that provide greater ground cover or anchoring should be considered. 
  • Consider the implication of changes in rotation. If opting to change the crop for the 2024 season it is important to consider the longer term implication on the crop rotation for nutrition and weed, pest and disease management.

Weed and Pest Management

Late planting means your legumes will face stiff competition from weeds and pests that are already established. To achieve the best from a late sown pulse crop avoid checking the crop in the establishment and early vegetative growth stages.

  • Prioritise Early Weed Control: Utilise pre-emergent herbicides to reduce competition for water and nutrients. Select herbicides with a low chance of causing crop damage or slowing crop growth, in a late sowing scenarios. Carefully select the herbicide to ensure the mode of action is appropriate to the conditions and the product is going to achieve control for the target weed population.
  • Employ Integrated Pest Management (IPM): Monitor pest populations closely and use a combination of biological, mechanical, and chemical controls to keep pest pressure in check.
  • Consider disease management strategy carefully in relation to risk and cost.


Inoculation can be a game-changer for legume crops, especially in areas with low natural populations of nitrogen-fixing bacteria.

  • Use Appropriate Rhizobia Strains: Ensure you use the correct strain of rhizobia for the legume species you are planting. This can significantly boost nitrogen fixation and improve crop health.
  • Proper Inoculation Techniques: Apply the inoculant just before sowing to ensure maximum viability. Be mindful of handling and storage conditions to keep the bacteria alive and effective.
  • If you are planting into hostile conditions, including dry sowing, consider doubling your inoculation rate. Research has shown that double the recommended inoculant rate consistently improves nodulation where the rhizobia or host plant are stressed. The GRDC ‘Doubling Inoculant Rates Fact Sheet suggests “When applying double rates, use twice the inoculant in the same amount of water as for the single rate. Do a small batch test first to avoid seeder blockages, especially with smaller seeded legumes. Granular inoculants may also provide benefits from increased rates under adverse sowing conditions, based on limited research.”


While a late break after a dry start poses challenges, grain legumes are still an option and provide significant rotational benefits. By carefully considering the timing of sowing, soil preparation, variety selection, weed and pest management, inoculation, and water use efficiency, you can maximise your legume crop’s potential even under less-than-ideal conditions. Stay proactive and make the most of the time you have to ensure a successful season.

Grain Legume Production in SA

For more grain legume resources or to find the next paddock event visit
‘Grain Legume Production in SA’ hosted on MSF’s website.

Click Here

Share this post, choose your platform!