Pulse School: How well do you know your fields?

Lentil harvest underway in southern Alberta in late August 2020 (Kara Oosterhuis/RealAgriculture)

According to weather experts, the Prairies are in for a long fall and good remaining harvest weather. It’s the perfect opportunity for fall field work, and it’s also good time to go out and take stock of what’s happening in your fields.

“This fall gives us an opportunity we haven’t had in the past, without the rain and snow and the cold temperatures interfering with that, we have an opportunity to really take a look at our fields and do some planning for next year,” says Robyne Bowness Davidson, pulse research scientist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.

In terms of planning for where to put some pulse crops next year, Bowness Davidson cautions farmers to think about what perennial weeds were present in the chosen field. For example if you have a cereal field with broadleaf weeds, putting a pulse crop on that field may mean reduced control of those weeds, based on the herbicides available.

It’s also a good time to review what herbicides were used in the past year and herbicide residuals. Pulse crops have varying degrees of sensitivity to residual herbicides. Lentils can be quite sensitive, as can field pea and chickpea. “Faba beans, as tall and robust as they seem to be, they tend to be even more sensitive, especially with a wild oat herbicide,” says Bowness Davidson. Double-checking your re-cropping restrictions on the previous year’s herbicides, while you’re planning for next year’s pulse crops, can prevent some big mistakes from happening.

If you choose fall soil sampling for your operation you can review any previous issues with the macronutrients you applied previously, and what should be applied for the upcoming season. Managing a previous crop’s residue could also be done at this time.

Asking if there were any indications that you had aphanomyces? Was it a wet year? Aphanomyces is an issue for field pea and lentil, but not for faba bean. Confirming the presence or absence, or even the spore load of this disease could be helpful for knowing how many years you have to pull pulse crops out of a rotation for that particular field.

“The more you know about your fields and the more you’re aware about what’s going on out there, the more success you’ll have,” says Bowness Davidson.

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