Rotation, rotation, rotation: Despite challenges, we need to continue growing pulses

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Growing pulses in 2019 was a challenge across the board. The growing conditions that were needed simply were not there, especially in the areas that saw a lot of rain.

Robyne Bowness Davidson, pulse research scientist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, says that due to all of said moisture, a lot of the pulses such as peas, lentils, and faba beans, didn’t get the stress they needed to push them into maturity. They just kept on growing, without ripening, and in the meantime, became disease-ridden.

“We saw pretty much everything for diseases. You name it. We saw diseases that we don’t usually see, such as sclerotinia and downy mildew. Of course, we saw mycosphaerella ascochyta blight, and this (past) year it was very rampant. It was everywhere. That disease tends to impact stem strength in peas, so a crop that has a tendency to lodge already, is now flat on the ground when the disease kicks in,” Bowness Davidson explains. “Chocolate spot is the disease we are most concerned about with faba beans, and for the last few years we haven’t been concerned about the disease, but last year it showed up for sure. And for the areas that grow lentils, we saw sclerotinia move in with a vengeance.”

Despite all these diseases that wreaked havoc, keeping a pulse in your rotation is imperative in order to break some of the disease cycles that can occur in the other crops.

“I like to say that we need to keep pulses in our rotation, or we should certainly try. With our other crops, we just have disease issues, and that’s the main thing. We have blackleg showing back up in our canola, we obviously have clubroot, we have fusarium and other diseases in our cereals, so in order to mitigate that risk in some of our other crops, a crop rotation is just so important, and that’s why I hound on it constantly,” Bowness Davidson emphasizes. “Trying to bring another cereal into a heavy rotation that already has cereals is not gonna really help, so you’re going to have to try to get some of those broadleafs back in there too.

“Canola-wheat-canola is not going to work for very long. Pulse crops, when bought into the rotation, increase the bottom line. That’s been shown over and over again. The pulse crops will increase the quality of your wheat, they will break up some of those disease cycles in some of those other crops. So it’s important I think now, after a wet year, and the possibility of those diseases spreading even more in those other crops, to keep an open mind, and try anything you can.”

Check out the full conversation with Robyne Bowness Davidson, below

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