Grower Profile: Derek Tallon

Lafleche, Saskatchewan

How long have you been growing chickpeas for? Do you grow other pulse crops? 
We started growing chickpeas in 1999, mainly because the prices were good and the crop fit with the growing area. We also grow medium green lentils as well – they were the first pulse crop we grew before chickpeas.

What has been your experience with growing chickpeas?
We have had both good and bad with our chickpeas, as sometimes it can be a boom or bust crop. It is the crop we consider the toughest to grow. When we look at the long-term average of growing chickpeas, it is quite profitable, even though last year was a challenge.

What are some of the barriers you see to growth of chickpea acres?
We have had some wetter years and the disease pressure has been high, which has really impacted chickpea acres. We did very well in the early 2000s when there were drier years and favourable growing conditions for our chickpeas. 

I have noticed over the years that we can manage disease a bit better. The cost of managing a profitable chickpea crop is high which can be a deterrent for some people. Better products and better varieties have helped manage disease to get a more profitable crop. If you compare chickpea
and green lentil prices from 2000 onwards, there was a spike in 2007. The ratio in pricesdrove a lot of growers from chickpeas to lentils and back again.

We are still trying to figure out and fine-tune our understanding of disease pressure from one pulse crop to the next.

What has your experience been with marketing chickpeas?
This year about 60 per cent of our chickpeas went to pet food markets and 40 per cent went to human consumption markets. We have never had many problems marketing chickpeas – they are not as liquid as other commodity crops, but it is rare that you have to sit on them for long periods of time to find an opportunity. Sometimes it is tricky determining chickpea quality and getting agreement on that, but otherwise we have been fortunate. Pet food markets now give us a floor price for our chickpeas, so that has taken some of the risk out of marketing.

Where could research dollars be best placed for chickpeas?
I think more emphasis on disease and maturity is crucial as those are the biggest areas that would have the greatest impact on chickpeas. Ascochyta is still a huge problem for chickpeas, and so are root rot diseases. Wetter years have also brought problems like sclerotinia and some white
moulds, but that is more due to weather patterns than continuous disease pressure. It would be nice to see more work done on maturity, but if your crop is continuously delayed by disease, the focus will have to keep on disease until it is resolved.

What is your long-term vision for pulses?
As long as there is always going to be demand for pulses, and prices hold steady, growers will continue to keep growing them. We need to be diligent in the management of our pulse crops, and keep finding ways to deal with resistant weeds and battle diseases. The future for pulses is bright I feel, but the markets will ultimately dictate this.