One topic that continues to be talked about among many producers is rotation. The most common concern is the effects of tight rotations. Could tight rotations create negative consequences or long lasting problems in producer’s fields? Are there additional costs by keeping tight rotations? Do we create more disease and insect risks by following a tight rotation? What options are there to improve our rotations that are profitable? One option could be to include a pulse crop into your rotation. There are many biased opinions and common misconceptions regarding growing pulse crops. The most common misconception about pulse crops is that they are a low or no input crop. This is completely not true. Pulse crops should be treated as fairly as your cereal or oil seed crops. They require strong nutrient programs as well as watching for bugs and disease closely. At McRae’s, we have seen very positive results in pulse crops when we have treated them as equally important as the other crops we grow. Strong fertility programs, regular scouting and disease awareness could lead to some high yielding and highly profitable returns.
At time of writing, we are experiencing some extremely strong prices for both peas and lentils. Currently #2 mid to large green peas are trading around $14.00 per bushel. Yellow peas are trading around $9.00 per bushel. Green lentils trade around 24 cents per pound which equals $14.40 per bushel and red lentils trade around 22 cents per pound or $13.20 per bushel. The pulse market can be very frustrating at times which can lead to large spikes and huge drops in pricing. Often, increases in seeded acreage and slow world demand can create huge decreases in pricing turning producers off from planting pulse crops.
The key is to keep a strong fertility program while growing peas or lentils and it will increase your yield potential. Peas and lentils require strong amounts of phosphorus, potassium and sulfur. We have also seen positive results by adding boron and calcium to the seed row. Soil testing is recommended prior to growing peas or lentils to be sure proper nutrients are applied. Recommended seed placed blends will be similar to those required for cereals or oil seeds. Next thing to decide is whether growing a pulse crop is right for you. Perhaps, the best way to decide whether a pulse crop could fit in your operation is to make a pros and cons list.
Let’s start with the pros:
• Another option to include in rotation.
• Peas and lentils fix their own nitrogen, which can help reduce nitrogen fertilizer costs for the farm.
• It’s a good crop for the land and good to follow with a cereal which can also reduce nitrogen needs.
• New varieties with better disease tolerance and chemical options.
• New varieties with potential of high yields.
• Strong prices which can result in good returns per acre.
• Lentils have good drought tolerance and can be grown on almost any soil type.
• Peas and lentils have good cold weather and early season frost tolerance which means they can be seeded early.
• New marketing options make it easier to sell product.
• Desiccating is encouraged which can help rid the farm of unwanted winter annuals.
• Newer varieties have stronger genetics with reduced lodging.
• New markets opening all the time.
Here are some cons:
• Require frequent scouting.
• A high moisture seasons could lead to high disease pressure.
• Strong potential for lodging.
• Lentils are a short growing crop and can be difficult to harvest.
• Pea straw can get damp in the evening making it almost impossible to harvest after dusk.
• Fluctuating markets, which may require long storage time.
• Require more effort to market.
• Serious disease pressure can lead to severely reduced yields.
• Trash can be difficult to manage and create issues in the spring.
• Can be infected by sclerotinia.
There are obviously more pros and cons to growing pulse crops and those are things that have to be decided on an individual basis. Most producers could adapt quickly to including pulse crops into a rotation. My suggestion would be to try a quarter or two to start, keeping the risk low. Another suggestion would be to consult your agronomist about varieties and fertility advice to maximize your yield potential. Other advice to producers would be to watch markets closely and reduce risk by over planting pulses in their rotation. We at McRae Holdings are prepared to help producers manage their operations and offer advice on a large variety cropping options, including pulses.
If you have any further questions about growing pulses feel free to contact the McRae agronomy team.
Happy farming. Daniel Konopelski.