It was a milestone year for Alberta pulse growers in 2010, with the net acreage harvested exceeding one million acres for the first time.
Statistics Canada figures showed about 1.1 million acres were seeded in 2010, and of that 1,073,000 acres were harvested, says Mark Olson, Alberta pulse industry development specialist.
“It is exciting news for the industry to reach that milestone as acreage in the various pulse crops has been growing for the past 25 years,” he says. “While peas are our dominant pulse crop, it was a dramatic increase in lentils which pushed us over that million acre mark.”
Alberta farmers harvested about 895,000 acres of peas in 2010 along with another 43,000 acres of dry field beans. Peas have ranged
As ugly as this desiccated pea crop looks, right photo, it still yielded 60 bushels per acre. Lentils, at left, ended up on over 135,000 acres in Alberta in 2010.
between 650,000 and 750,000 for the past 10 years, and field beans are usually in the 40,000 to 50,000 acre range.
Olson, points out in lentil production however, the seeded/harvested acres have been hovering at about 25,000 acres in recent years, and jumped to 135,000 harvested acres in 2010.
“Price is always the driving force, and prices have improved,” says Olson, “But one of the important developments which is helping lentil production in Alberta is the introduction of imi-tolerant varieties — particularly the red lentils.”
There are a number of the herbicide tolerant red and green lentil varieties now on the market — many of them developed at the Crop Development Centre in Saskatoon. The imi-tolerant feature refers to the fact these varieties are tolerant to the herbicide imidazolinone which is the key active ingredient in herbicides such as Odyssey and Solo.
Along with improved weed control now with herbicide-tolerant varieties, Olson also says newer red lentil varieties such as CDC IBC-289, CDC Imax, and CDC Maxim are high yielding and also two to three weeks earlier maturing than green varieties.
“Everyone fought with white mould this year, but with higher yields, even with lower grades the crop still produced a good return,” says Olson.
While traditionally southern Alberta growing conditions were regarded most favourable for lentils, Olson says the crop continues to be tested in new areas, with some producers north of Edmonton growing lentils in 2010.
One other development, which is helping the pulse crop industry in general, is a growing recognition of the health benefits of pulses or pulse crop extracts in food. “We are seeing a greater demand for pulse crops in India and other Asian countries,” he says. “But even in North America as more food manufacturers are looking at environmental and healthy food issues, pulses have a very good fit. With this growing interest in pulse crops we are on the cusp of very exciting times.”
LeeHartisafieldeditorforGrainewsin Calgary,Contacthimat403-592-1964orby emailat [email protected]