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Five Steps To Optimum Pea And Lentil Seeding

Pea and lentil acres make up a critical portion of our acres each year. For some, seeding and production management of pulses is old hat, but for many, there’s much to learn about pulse production. While conditions and specifics will vary slightly depending on where you farm in Western Canada, there are some rules of thumb to help you make the most of your pulse crops.

What type of pulse crop you grow should fall in line with what works best in your area, with your soil type and climate. Past success with either field pea, lentil or chickpea in your area will help make the decision of what to grow, but there are times with the economic analysis of certain crops might make you want to give something new a try. As we saw with lentils in 2010, just because a crop pencils out on paper, doesn’t mean it will work out in the field. As commodity prices are more even between commodities this year, more farms will stick with the pulse crop that they have had past success with — and that’s how it should be.

We’re relatively season pulse producers, but even we still find there’s value in revisiting production methods prior to seeding to see what we can tweak on our own farm. Often a simple change in thinking or analyses can help boost our production and return. On our farm any simple tip that helps increase our bottom line by five per cent is sought after and considered.

SEED EARLY

While seeding “early” means something different depending

on where you farm, we’ve had good results with getting pulses in the ground as soon as possible. Farms in southwestern Saskatchewan will seed much earlier than those in the northeast to be sure, however as an

average it is advantageous for farmers to put their peas and lentils in first — somewhere in the last couple weeks of April or first part of May.

Field peas and lentils are both cool season crops and are excellent candidates to be amongst the first crop to be seeded in the spring. Peas and lentils can be seeded into lower temperature soil and are quite frost tolerant (see Table 1). Keeping frost tolerance in mind is important, but remember that that these crops don’t like high temperatures at flowering.

It should go without saying that pulse crops should be properly inoculated every year with the correct rhizobia type, at the optimal rate and then seeded within the time frame listed as the best for inoculation success. It doesn’t hurt to be reminded of this, of course.

Staggering our lentil seeding into two windows has been advantageous. Our early-seeded lentils, usually the first thing we seed each year, typically yield best and of the highest, but we’ve found that we can manage overall lentil acres better by seeding some at a later time. This spreads out both disease and harvest management based on our farm setup.

AIM FOR TARGET PLANT POPULATIONS

Have you ever spent some time walking your field and digging up your seed rows looking for emerging plants? I sure have. Sometimes what our actual plant population ends up as is not directly correlated to what our seeding rate actually was. There are many factors at play in this discrepancy, such as environmental conditions, insect damage or compromised germination or vigour of the seed. Some, but not all of these, are foreseeable and manageable problems.

For the best plant stand, set your seeding rate based on a desired plant population, not a rule of thumb seeding rate. Obtaining desired plant population is one of the biggest issues with growing field peas. Many fields consistently do not obtain the desired plant population of seven to eight plants per square foot. A low plant population leads to many other production concerns, such as lack of competitiveness with weeds as well as a higher likelihood of lodging and causing problems at harvest.

Some crops, in particular field peas (and canola, but that’s another story), can display huge seed size variability. There can be up to a 25 per cent difference in seed size depending on variety, where the crop was grown and the environmental conditions it was grown in. This size variability means that field peas are an excellent crop to determine seeding rated based on thousand kernel weight and desired plant population. It is critical for you to weigh out your seed pea sample. You don’t have to weigh out an entire 1,000 grams and count the seeds (and vice versa), just weigh out 100 grams and multiply by 10.

There are different ways to determine your plant popula-

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For the best plant stand, set your seeding rate based on a desired plant population, not a rule of thumb seeding rate. Obtaining desired plant population is one of the biggest issues with growing field peas

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