There are several downgrading factors in the pulse crop that farmers have no control over — snow or rain at harvest that causes sprouting and bleaching being perhaps the most common. Other factors, however, such as dirt tag, staining, and cracks can be managed to some degree through harvest management and gentle handling.
For this episode of the Pulse School, Jason Stroeve, of RealAgriculture, visits Judy Elias, of the Canadian Grain Commission, to get a first-hand look at what’s downgrading the pulse crop, how and why it happens, and what, if anything, farmers can do about it.
In lentils, the name of the game this year is sprouting, and that’s bad news for green lentils, as sprouted seeds get puffy, don’t move as well, and end up cracked or broken. This means that dockage can multiply very quickly from delivery point to delivery point, Elias says, meaning buyers are less enthused to buy sprouted lentils.
This year, there is limited staining of the green lentil crop, but there certainly have been downgrades because of lost colour. “Green lentils are bought in bulk, and people don’t want to see a stain when they eat them,” Elias says. Washed out green lentils are downgraded because of colour.
Red lentils are less impacted by staining, and though they are usually split by a processor, the processor is the one who wants to split them — so sprouting, cracks, and broken seeds also will downgrade this crop.
Yellow peas are relatively forgiving on the grading factors, though combine settings can end up causing damage if the concave is set too tight. Adhered soil is maybe the biggest issue, Elias says, and that’s a function of harvest conditions and harvest timing. Dirt tag sticks to peas and can’t be removed, and that will cause downgrading.
Green peas tend to get a lot of bleaching, even of it’s only on one side, and there’s only a tolerance of three per cent before the crop is downgraded to sample. Here too, adhered soil can cause an issue. “It sticks like glue,” she says.
Not a lot goes wrong with chickpeas, Elias says, but she is seeing immature seeds in some samples that can downgrade the crop quickly (think of locked in green, similar to canola or soybeans). It’s possible that those with a colour sorter could remove these, and though that’s an added cost, it may be worth it, given that chickpeas are also sold on appearance.