Pulse School: Sticking with pulses has long-term benefits

Pulse crops like a warm, dry bias — something that has eluded much of the pulse growing region of Western Canada this year.

Peas especially don’t like wet feet, preferring instead well drained, lighter soil, along with that drier weather. For the 2019 growing season, many pulse growers saw plenty of pea crops with lots of vegetative growth, but not the pods to go along with it. Faba beans haven’t fared much better. The crop doesn’t mind the cooler temps, but needs a stress to set pods and push into reproductive stage: with the wetter and cooler weather this year that just didn’t happen.

As stressed as farmers are right now, Robyne Bowness Davidson, with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, hopes they don’t lose sight of the long-term benefits to growing pulses.

“You’re out there trying to pick up a crop that’s 6-feet tall and laying on the ground,” like with field peas, or looking at faba beans that are still green in September — it’s understandably frustrating.  But for those tempted to pull the plug on pulse acres, Bowness Davidson says, “We need to take a long-term approach to farming.”

Canola, wheat, and barley — the “easier” to grow crops — really benefit from pulses in rotation, she says. Especially in those areas of Saskatchewan and Alberta with fewer cropping options, rotation choices are everything. Alternating between canola and wheat is eventually going to end up a wreck, and we know that soil health benefits so much from pulses in rotation.

There are ways to mitigate at least some of the production risk on pulse acres, Bowness Davidson says. Planning a year or more ahead is really key, as it allows the most amount of time to stack the deck in your favour. “Everything that you can do to give that pulse corp a leg up (helps),” she says. Effective fall weed control (scout!), careful field selection, using clean seed and treated seed, seeding early with appropriate seeding rates, and early weed control all add up to the best possible pulse acres.

Listen/watch below to Robyne Bowness Davidson’s interview with RealAgriculture’s Jason Stroeve:

Check out more Pulse School episodes, here!

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