Pulse School: Assessing the root health of pulse crops

(Kara Oosterhuis/RealAgriculture)

Are you seeing yellowing in your pulse crops? If so, it’s most likely time to start digging.

Jenn Walker, research manager with Alberta Pulse Growers, tells Kara Oosterhuis that yellowing above the ground is a good indication that something is going on below ground. In this Pulse School episode, Walker talks specifically about root rots, such as fusarium and aphanomyces.

“When you dig up the plants what you’ll see is some sort of discolouration in the roots. There may be a pinching off, which is one kind of disease complex; (or) it could be kind of a caramel colour, which is another kind of disease complex. That’s one of the challenges with root diseases, is that often they layer on top of each other,” she emphasizes. “So you could have aphanomyces and fusarium all showing signs on the same plant.”

Walker explains that a characteristic of fusarium is red veining down the centre if you slice open the root, while aphanomyces-infected roots will turn a brown/caramel colour. (Story continues after player)

Aphanomyces can be completely devastating to crop yield.

“The nice thing is that it can happen just in patches. The challenge is that we don’t have good control for aphanomyces. What I would suggest is if you’re out in your fields, digging up these roots, and are finding some root disease, you actually send it away and get it plated, so then we know what we are dealing with for sure,” Walker says. “Because with some of the other root diseases, we can do seed treatments, which will have some short term protection.”

She notes that one of the biggest challenges with root diseases in recent years, has been the development of it in later season, versus early in the spring, which makes control even trickier.

“Field selection becomes super important. If you know you’ve had root diseases in the past, just kind of actively try to keep a good crop rotation schedule so that we can spread out some of those infection periods. Those are really some of our best management practices.”

Walker adds that although there aren’t any decent control options for aphanomyces, researchers are hard at work trying to find ways to control the rot.

Check out more Pulse School episodes, here.

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