A NEW high yielding lupin with improved disease resistance and herbicide tolerance was launched last week, begging the question: Is this the break crop option the northern Wheatbelt has been waiting for?
According to industry experts, the answer is yes.
Despite speculation at recent field days that the new variety had come too late and murmurs that growers would opt for canola as a break crop, lupin breeders are confident the new sweet variety, PBA Barlock, will take off.
The mastermind behind PBA Barlock, Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) senior plant breeder Bevan Buirchell, said it gave growers a 12 per cent higher yield than the current variety Tanjil.
It also protects against anthracnose and gives growers the option to use metribuzin for weed control.
Seen as a highly competitive crop alternative to existing varieties such as Tanjil, released in 1998, Dr Buirchell said PBA Barlock was also a non-shattering replacement for the Mandelup variety.
"PBA Barlock was the result of 13 years hard work, challenges and ultimately, success," he said.
"It ticks all the boxes and really reflects the considerable genetic gain that had occurred in the breeding program over the last decade."
According to Dr Buirchell, the lupin breeding team was able to use new DNA fingerprinting technologies developed at DAFWA over the last decade to ensure the variety had the right gene for anthracnose resistance.
He said PBA Barlock was moderately susceptible to brown spot, resistant to grey spot and that resistance to phompsis stem blight was equivalent to Tanjil and Mandelup.
"The ongoing development of lupin varieties will see better herbicide tolerance, greater disease resistance, better yields and greater tolerance to environmental stresses, supporting the success of the WA grains industry," Dr Buirchell said.
The launch of PBA Barlock was held during the West Midlands Spring Field Day, and doubled as an opportunity to thank and honour Dr Buirchell for 26 years of dedicated service to DAFWA.
With just weeks left before he enters retirement, Dr Buirchell said he was thrilled that his work had paved the way for the next phase of lupin breeding.
Grains Industry of Western Australia chairman Rod Birch said history would record Dr Buirchell's work as incredibly significant in terms of lupins, and their role in WA's cropping systems.
"For those of us that have seen the benefits of good legume crop-based rotations, we have much reason to thank Bevan for his work and commitment to excellence," Mr Birch said.
"With WA being the largest breeders of lupins in the world, we are indeed fortunate to have had Bevan's involvement in the industry."
In addition to being a great break crop option, lupins such as PBA Barlock have been pegged as the latest super food.
Mid last year, lupins transitioned from a low value feed grain, to "the next big thing" after local WA manufacturers teamed up with Curtin University food science and technology researchers to produce the world's first high lupin content breakfast cereal.
Curtin's School of Public Health professor Vijay Jayasena said the Super Lupin breakfast cereal is gluten free, high in dietary fibre, high in protein, low in fat, contains no cholesterol and is low GI.
"Independent studies by various researchers in Australia and overseas have shown that the consumption of lupin enriched foods reduces obesity, reduces the risk of type two diabetes, lowers blood cholesterol, improves bowel health and lowers hypertension," Professor Jayasena said.
With dieticians, nutritionists and diabetes specialists endorsing the benefits of lupins, as well as the emergence of lupin chips and flat breads in the market, demand for the pulse is expected to grow dramatically.
DAFWA grains industry director Mark Sweetingham said PBA Barlock was destined to become one of the mainstays of the lupin industry for the next decade.
"It really is testament to the ongoing research, development and extension work being done," Dr Sweetingham said.
"The pulse breeding program by DAFWA and its co-funding partner GRDC will have tangible long-term benefits to growers and the wider community."
DAFWA regional director Mike Bowley said it was likely the new variety would be taken up by growers in WA's coastal areas and then filter into the surrounding districts.
PBA Barlock will be available nationally from Seednet and is protected under Plant Breeders Rights legislation.