Saskatchewan Pulse Growers (SPG) has re-aligned its strategy to place specific emphasis on four key result areas (KRAs) including:
- Unlocking yield of established pulse crops
- Increasing demand for pulse crops
- Developing new pulse crop options
- Expanding market access
Research, development, and grower outreach are key to unlocking the full potential in pulse production. To that end, SPG has consistently broadened its scope and level of investments into research and development program areas to encompass nearly 60 per cent of the total budget, a budgeted 2015/2016 annual investment of $11.8 million, focused on increasing the productivity of pulse crop production, and supporting increased utilization across five research areas.
Breeding and Genetic Improvement
SPG makes investments in pulse breeding through its long term partnership with the University of Saskatchewan’s Crop Development Centre (CDC). Our partnership with the CDC ensures that growers have access to the best possible varieties as quickly as possible. Since 1997, SPG has released over 100 CDC varieties royalty-free. We also support breeding by other institutions through the Pea Genetic Improvement Program (PGIP).
In addition to breeding, SPG invests in genetic improvement tools that bring yield gains to growers faster. Support for lentil and pea genome sequencing, development of rapid generation technology, and marker assisted selection are just some of the ways we help to ensure that the performance of pulse crops continues to advance.
Increasing research investments by SPG over the years has positioned Canada as the leading exporter of pulses in the world. In addition to improving lentil, pea, dry bean, and chickpea varieties, we are also increasing our investments in newer crops such as soybean and faba bean research and variety development and adoption. The aim is to have one pulse crop option for every acre in Saskatchewan.
Successful yield gains come from both improvements in genetics and the reduction of agronomic constraints to achieving that yield. In order to accomplish this, SPG has increased its investments in agronomy research and extension activities.
Herbicide-resistant weeds are a major production challenge for pulse growers. A top priority for SPG is to integrate additional herbicide tolerance platforms into varieties, and to ensure that multiple modes of action are readily available to pulse growers. Adopting integrated weed management practices is also important. Through research and knowledge transfer, we will provide growers with the knowledge and tools needed to combat herbicide resistance and to control weeds.
Reducing Disease Impact
Advancements are also needed to minimize disease impact and support growers’ ability to maximize returns. SPG supports research to increase disease resistance in new varieties, encourage sustainable management practices, and ensure the continued efficacy of current fungicides.
Pulse growers know that pulses play an important role in sustainable cropping systems. To ensure pulses are recognized for this attribute, we will continue to support research that help establish the benefits of pulses in crop rotations.
Processing and Utilization
We know that we cannot just produce more pulses, we need to develop more markets for pulses as well. Research and development in pulse processing and utilization aims to further support utilization of pulses in food, feed, and industrial applications. Saskatchewan pulses are exported worldwide. In addition to traditional markets where pulses are consumed as a whole or split, SPG has also stepped up its efforts and investments in the area of value-added pulse ingredients such as resistant starches, proteins, and fibre. Research in this area will help diversify and increase demand for Saskatchewan pulse crops.
Pulses have considerable human health and nutrition benefits. SPG supports health research needed to solidify the body of scientific evidence to support marketing and health claims for pulses. Blood sugar control and cardio-protective effects of pulse consumption are two areas that show considerable promise now and in the future. Understanding the impact of processing on health outcomes of pulse consumption is also a research priority. SPG is also supporting research to continually improve the nutritional profile of pulses, including micronutrients.