Pulse School: Planning for next year's pulses with root rots in mind

Planning concerns for next year’s pulse crops stem mostly from disease concerns, especially aphanomyces. 2020 was a really wet year, and there were pockets that saw a lot of moisture, which resulted in increased roots rots and that nasty soil-borne disease — such as aphanomyces — which makes planning for the future crucial.

“We saw a lot of variability across the province last year, where in the south of the province the extra moisture was actually really awesome, and we saw some really awesome pulse yields, particularly in dryland peas and lentils,” says Jenn Walker, research manager of Alberta Pulse Growers. “As we move north across the province there was lots of pockets where we unfortunately had lots of moisture, and of course one of the consequences of that is seeing areas of fields that have poorer drainage and root rot diseases later in the season.”

When farmers are looking at building their rotations and securing seed supply for the 2021 growing season, the ideal rotation probably won’t be achievable because of the increased disease pressure. One way to start pinpointing those problem fields is to think back on the waterlogged spots. Those aphanomyces oospores, in particular, need water to move around.

“The idea of any disease management is you don’t want to feed that enemy,” says Walker. If you know you’ve got aphanomyces or if you think a field is higher risk, don’t seed it to peas or lentils next year. The other option is to consider an alternative pulse crop like faba beans, chickpeas, or soybeans. Of course, sending a soil test in to the lab will tell you for sure if you have aphanomyces or not.

“Something else that we’ve learned in the last little while is that a lot of these soil borne diseases can live and propagate themselves on some weed species,” says Walker. Chickweed, shepherd’s purse, white clover, and volunteer alfalfa are all susceptible to aphanomyces, so weed control of these species is important.

Having healthy seed is also important. Reusing seed over several generations could cause a loss of vigour, so it might be time for a refresh says Walker. Currently, there are no resistant varieties of peas or lentils to aphanomyces.

Watch the full conversation for details on APG’s regional variety trial app relaunch:

Related: Soil and plant sampling for aphanomyces: a how-to

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