See the Victorian Winter Crop Summary for an up to date guide to lentil varieties and last season's yield results.
Lentil (Lens culinaris) is a free-standing legume divided into two sub-species; the cultivated variety ssp.L. culinaris and its wild relative ssp. L. orientalis. Lentils are highly sensitive to saline, boron and sodic soils, implications include; limited root growth, root depth and moisture extraction capabilities.
The plant has many branches and can grow to the height of 15 – 75 cm, with pods containing one to two seeds, stubble retention and reduced tillage systems where possible are beneficial plant support. Soil structure and drainage are important for higher yields.
Early sowing generally increases potential yields, but also increases the likelihood of crop lodging. Make sure there is good soil moisture before sowing and that seed has been inoculated.
Sowing depth should be 4 - 6cm; this depth protects seed from herbicide damage and offers an optimum environment for rhizobium survival.
Target plant density should be 120 – 150 plants/m2; higher density rates for lower rainfall areas and short season environments is recommended.
An ideal germination percentage is 80%, if less, sowing rates may need to be increased to compensate.
Seeding rate (kg/ha) = Plant density (plants/m2) x 100 seed weight (g) x 10 ÷ Germination percentage
Lentils require a minimum of 350mm rainfall a maximum of 550mm; in the higher rainfall areas good drainage is essential; waterlogging will have a great effect on yields and disease spread.
Drought and severe or prolonged hot weather can cause loss in yields through pod cracking.
Prior to sowing of lentil (no more than 24 hours) seed should be inoculated with Group F inoculum (rhizobia). A dressing of DAP diammonium phosphate (50 – 60 kg/ha) will provide the phosphate and nitrogen requirements of the plant.
Red-legged earthmite (Halotydeus destructor) is a black-bodied mite with red legs; it damages seedlings as they emerge.
Cowpea aphid (Aphis craccivora). Moisture stressed crops are susceptible to aphid infestation, especially when the atmosphere is dry and when warm weather occurs in autumn and spring.
Lucerne flea (Sminthurus viridis) is a small (2.5 mm), wingless, light green hopping insect. It chews through leaves in layers resulting in "window-pane" like holes.
Native budworm (Helicoverpa punctigera). The caterpillar damages maturing seed in pods during the flowering and podding stage of plant growth.
Ascochyta blight (Ascochyta lentis) causes black lesions on the stem and the wilting of plants. Variety selection, seed treatment and fungicide sprays are important management practices.
Botrytis grey mould (Botrytis cinerea) is another serious disease in southern Australia. It attacks the base of the stem and the collar region of young plants, where a soft rot develops and then becomes covered with a fluffy grey mould, infected seed is white and chalky in appearance.
Phoma is a seed-borne infection that results in black-brown discolouration of the root near where the seed is attached. Blackening may spread up the root and cause lesions at the base of the stem. Black lesions may completely girdle the base of the stem and root where infection is severe.
See the Victorian Winter Crop Summary for the latest lentil disease resistance table.
Harvest lentils when the lowest pods on the plant start to turn light brown and light shaking of the pod produces a rattle. Seed moisture count should be 14 percent, and generally if you follow the rule above for when to harvest the moisture count will be close to this.
Lentils should not be sown in a lentil, chickpea, faba bean or vetch paddock more than once every three years. This program allows a break from possible disease harbouring.
Botrytis Grey Mould (BGM) and Aschohyta Blight are the two diseases of most threat to lentil yields but these diseases can be managed effectively.
If seed crops had symptoms of Cucumber Mosaic Virus and alfalfa mosaic virus, it should be tested before sowing.
The lentil disease management guide and the Pulse Australia website (see below) are excellent reference points for further detail.
If a paddock has BGM or aschochyta blight history, only choose paddocks that are a minimum of 500 metres from the disease paddock for the next few seasons, this will go a long way to preventing disease spread.
Diseases can spread through continual same crop production, wind (spores) and machinery. Adequate machinery hygiene and good management practices will prevent or mitigate the effects on crop health and harvest yields.
See the Victorian Winter Crop Summary for an up to date guide to lentil varieties.
- Victorian Winter Crop Summary
- Carter J, Materne M (1997) Lentil Growers Guide: A Guide to the Production of Lentils (Agriculture Victoria -Horsham), (ISBN 0 7306 6681 6).
- Wayne Hawthorne, Pulse Australia, Naracoorte, SA and Wendy Bedggood, Horsham, Vic.: Lentils in South Australia & Victoria, Pulse Australia & Grains Research and Development Corporation.