YIELD INCREASE: Researchers found providing more oxygen to soil increased chickpea yields.
YIELD INCREASE: Researchers found providing more oxygen to soil increased chickpea yields.

Researchers encourage cost-effective irrigation method

GROWING adoption of chickpea crops has prompted Central Queensland researchers to advocate a complete rethink on irrigation methods.

CQUniversity and Department of Agriculture and Fisheries researchers analysed data gathered over three years on an Emerald property and found that a process called 'oxygation' caused yields 10 to 27 per cent higher than conventionally irrigated plots.

DAF senior development agronomist Lance Pendergast, one of the researchers who conducted the study, said increased consumer demand for plant protein was making chickpea more attractive to growers.

He said that oxygation helped solve the common problem of waterlogging, or suffocation, of plants irrigated below the soil surface.

"When you irrigate, the water sweeps into the soil and displaces air that's in the small gaps in the soil," Mr Pendergast said.

"This exposes the plants to a lack of oxygen and affects their growth and the eventual yield of the plant."

Mr Pendergast said chickpea was particularly prone to suffering from a lack of oxygen during its flowering stage. It is the chickpea flowers that form into the pods that produce the grain for harvest.

"Oxygation introduces air into the water in the form of air bubbles," he said.

"It provides a certain amount of air into the soil and around a 20 per cent increase in yield.

"It's not very often you find some way of increasing your yield by 20 per cent."

Results of the study were published in the scientific journal, Agricultural Water Management, by Dr Pendergast, CQUniversity associate professor Surya Bhattarai, and CQUniversity adjunct professor David Midmore.