2017 Research Demonstration and On-Farm Trial Results

Digging into the data from applied research demonstrations and Pulse Replicated On-Farm Independent Trials

by Noelle Chorney

Initial results are in for Saskatchewan Pulse Growers’ (SPG) 2017 applied research demonstrations (ARD) and Pulse Replicated On-Farm Independent Trials (PROFIT). The ARD projects were set up to demonstrate potential crop responses to management practices. Further testing is needed to confirm or develop any recommendations based on initial findings.

Applied Research Demonstration Projects

1. Remote Sensing: Potential Uses in Pulses

Crop Command Agronomy in Southey, in collaboration with Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation, tested remote sensing as a tool to predict yield prior to harvest. This could allow growers to make marketing decisions before harvest, and help crop insurance companies make more accurate and timely predictions with field evaluations.

The goal was to get within five per cent of actual yield in terms of predicting harvest in field peas and soybeans. There was some success with field peas — predictions were within six per cent of actual harvest.

Yield predictions in soybean fields were less accurate. “Dry conditions prevented the immature pods from filling that were counted in the predictions,” says SPG Agronomy Manager, Sherrilyn Phelps. “We may need to count less developed pods separately or count closer to harvest to improve accuracy in soybeans.”

2. Intercropping

Peas and lentils were intercropped with mustard at the South East Research Farm at Redvers, with a goal to reduce lodging, and Aphanomyces root rot, as well as increase production compared to monocropping systems.

Initial results found reduced lodging with the mustard/yellow peas and the mustard/large green lentils intercrops, but the dry conditions meant there was little root rot pressure. “The land-equivalent ratio — the unit produced per unit of land — was
higher in all the intercrops compared to monocrops,” says Phelps. “The economics are also promising.”

Separating the grain after harvest may be critical as there is no information on storage of mixed grains. Marketing may also be a challenge and is something to consider.

The value of pulses in silage intercrops with corn and barley was explored by the Wheatland Conservation Area (WCA) at Swift Current. While the dry year hindered biomass, the best economics overall was the barley monocrop followed by barley intercropped with silage peas. Faba beans, alone or with corn, showed the highest protein but had low biomass as a result of dry conditions. The corn monocrop had the highest biomass, however, the cost of inputs lowered the economic returns.

3. Solid Seeding Dry Beans

Dry beans under row cropping require specialized equipment and extra cultivation. The Irrigation Crop Diversification Corporation at Outlook compared growing dry beans under both row cropping and solid seeding systems. While solid seeding did lead to slightly lower yields, the cost savings of using regular equipment and avoiding extra cultivation made the economics comparable. 

There are still some issues to work out with the solid seeding of dry beans — such as getting seed into the ground and harvested without any mechanical damage. “Solid seeding dry beans is definitely doable, but we need to minimize that damage,” says Phelps. “Swathing was a more successful method of harvest than straight cutting, but straight cutting is still possible with careful tweaking of combine settings.”

4. Nutrient Responses in Pulses

Three projects were undertaken to demonstrate nutrient responses of pulses, to show growers that nutrient management can affect yield. 

Red lentils and durum wheat were grown in 2017 with increasing rates of phosphorous at the WCA. “Even in a dry year, we did see responses,” says Phelps. “The economics of phosphorus fertilizer with lentils showed a slightly positive return up to, and including, 60 pounds per acre (lb/ac) phosphorus with red lentil pricing of $12 per bushel ($0.20 per lb). We are going to continue this project in 2018, with durum grown on lentil plots and lentils grown on the durum plots to see the impact of phosphorous fertilization in the year prior to growing the crop.”

The impact of phosphorous fertilizer rates and placement on faba beans was carried out by the Indian Head Agricultural Research Foundation. “Results from this site demonstrate the high tolerance of faba beans to seed-placed fertilizer. There was no difference between side-banding and seed-placing phosphorus with faba beans at this location over two years,” says Phelps. There was a linear yield response even up to the highest rate tested, which was 80 kilograms P2O5 per hectare (71 lb/ac), which demonstrates the need to consider phosphorus when planting faba beans.

Response to sulfur rates and formulations were also demonstrated with peas and lentils in southwestern Saskatchewan by the WCA, where soils are known to be sulfur-deficient. “The limited moisture conditions did restrict yields in both lentils and peas. However, lentils did show a response to increasing rates of ammonium sulfate, with the highest yields at 20 lb/ac. Various sulfur products were evaluated, but under the dry conditions only ammonium sulfate and ammonium thiosulfate showed
positive returns.

5. Pollinators in Faba Beans

Faba beans are a cross-pollinating crop and require pollinators for top yields. Little is known on faba bean pollinators in Western Canada. Project lead, Dr. Sean Prager from the University of Saskatchewan (U of S), was surprised to find a wide range in
diversity in the bee populations in faba beans surveyed. Understanding the impact of pollinators on yields of faba beans, and how to best manage them, is of interest for future research.

The outcome of the ARD projects have created a definite interest in pursuing more on fertility, expanding dry bean acreage, and intercropping, to understand what systems work best. Two new projects are also in planning stages for 2018: controlling volunteer canola in Roundup Ready® soybeans and chickpea disease management.

Pulse Replicated On-Farm Independent Trials 

The purpose of SPG’s PROFIT trials is to take successful small plot studies and test them out in the field with growers’ equipment, in their environments, on a larger scale, to see whether the results on small plots hold true.

1. Lentil Seeding Rates

The current recommended seeding rate of small red lentils is to target 120 plants per square metre (m2). Research by Dr. Steve Shirtliffe from the U of S suggests that with small red lentils, higher yields and returns can be achieved at higher seeding rates, up to 240 plants/m2. To evaluate the impact of increasing seeding rates under a larger scale, 12 growers participated in the 2017 PROFIT trial.

An interesting finding with this project was that a number of growers are still setting their seeding rates based on pounds per acre, rather than calculating rates based on the thousand kernel weight of their seed. With variations in seed size, they may be overseeding in some cases, and underseeding in others.

“We have got some great results from year one, but before we make a recommendation to adjust seeding rates, we would want to test this under multiple years, and different environmental conditions,” says SPG Agronomy Specialist, Glenda Clezy.

2. Soybean Inoculation Rates 

At nine sites across the province, soybean growers tested the benefit of increasing manufacturers’ recommended inoculant rate up to two times. “Of the nine sites, six were responsive to the increase in inoculant. Of those responsive sites, many saw a
positive economic response to the increased inoculant rate,” says Clezy. In general, it was observed that yields needed to increase by at least one bushel per acre to reach a break-even point, to cover the cost of the extra inoculant.

“What we did find is that the three sites that did not really show a response were due to agronomic factors in the field that played a more important role in yield development in soybeans, such as extreme dryness, high weed pressure, and poor field selection for soybeans based on soil quality.”

These results are consistent with other research done at Outlook and Indian Head, and will need to be tested again over multiple years and environments to determine whether there is a significant trend that can be predicted.