Pulse School: Four early season considerations

(Lara de Moissac/RealAgriculture)

Decisions, decisions. There are many early season considerations that will factor into where to put your next crop of peas, lentils, chickpeas, or faba beans. Seed quality, environmental conditions, whether or not to treat seed, and pest concerns are just some that make the list.

One of the great things about pulse crops is that they can be used for seed; however, seed quality and the age of the saved seed should be considered. A quality issue like earth-tag or seeing a lot of yellow peas in a green pea sample raises red flags for Jenn Walker, research manager with Alberta Pulse Growers.

“What happens over time, because pulse crops are open-pollinators — which means bees take pollen from flower to the next, and that’s how the flowers get fertilized — is we have out-crossing,” says Walker. If a variety has out-crossed enough over the years, it will start to lose its genetic traits.

Of course, you want good germination results from the sample you sent away, or did in your shop or kitchen. Another test that doesn’t often get as much attention is vigour — it’s an indicator of the health of seed, when planted into adverse environmental conditions.

Ascochyta, the foliar disease that shows up in mid to late summer and can be carried on the seed coat, requires special testing. “We recommend not planting your pea seed if that percentage is 10 or above, so if it’s 10 per cent or less ascochyta on your seed, you’re good to go,” says Walker.

Alberta Pulse Growers also recommends a pulse crop once every four years, and when thinking about field selection, there are a few weeds that are notoriously hard to control in a pulse year, like Canada thistle, says Walker.

Herbicide carryover is another consideration, particularly with a dry season the year before. “A lot of the herbicides that are used on cereals can have a carryover effect up to two years after,” says Walker. (Story continues below video)

Most pulse crops, with the exception of dry beans, can be seeded early and are tolerant of cooler soils. When such large seeds germinate, they’ll take on double their weight in water during that imbibition stage. Peas, faba beans, and chickpeas can be seeded one to two inches deep with a target plant density of seven to nine plants per square foot.

As for seed treatments, which are without question a recommendation for every pulse acre, there are options. “The first is a general seed treatment that covers general diseases, like damping-off for example. Then there is a choice to add a Group 22 herbicide that can suppress early-season aphanomyces, and also the choice to add an insecticide to protect against pea leaf weevil.