A Pulse Crop for Every Acre of Saskatchewan - PulseResearch
April 24, 2017
New crop options make pulses a viable choice for growers
While much of the pulse research focuses on managing current issues, such as diseases and developing new varieties with important traits that are suited to our growing conditions, a large part is also strategically forward-looking. A part of Saskatchewan Pulse Growers’ (SPG) strategic growth strategy is to establish at least one viable pulse crop option for every acre in Saskatchewan.
There are two emerging pulse crops that hold great potential for Saskatchewan — soybeans and faba beans — and in the past five years, the province has seen significant growth of these two crops. Soybean seeded area has jumped from an estimated 12,000 acres in 2010, to 250,000 acres in 2015, while faba bean seeded area jumped from 15,000 acres in 2010, to an estimated 62,000 in 2015. For 2016, soybean acreage has fallen to 235,000 acres and faba bean acreage sits at approximately 50,000 acres. Both crops have seen heavy competition from peas and lentils, as well as canola this year.
“We expect soybean acres to continue to grow as the availability of well adapted short season varieties increase and as growers become more familiar with growing the crop,” says SPG’s Executive Director Carl Potts.
Not only are these crops good options for growth in Saskatchewan because of the conditions here, they also offer a variety of potential benefits to growers, such as increased profits and reduced inputs. Currently, there is growing worldwide demand for pulse crops, as consumers are increasingly looking for sources of plant-based protein.
SPG’s goal is to not only ensure Saskatchewan is growing enough pulse crops to meet worldwide demand, but also to give growers in the province more options to grow pulse crops. Furthermore, growing more pulse crops will have a longerterm impact on sustainability, Potts says.
“Pulses add to the sustainability of crop rotations by breaking disease and weed cycles in non-pulse crops, so adding pulse crop options for all areas of the province is an important long-term goal for sustainable cropping systems,” he says. “Adding additional pulse crop options for areas already growing significant amounts of pulses can also help to reduce disease and weed pressure for existing pulse crops.”
For example, faba beans and chickpeas are less susceptible to some root diseases such as Aphanomyces, which have been impacting pea and lentil production in recent years.
This research priority area will focus on nurturing these two crops so that growers have varieties well suited to their soil zones, and have all the information they need to grow them, including information about seeding rates, fertility, pest management, and harvest management.
“We also continue to support variety development that results in better yielding varieties with improved disease resistance and end-use characteristics,” Potts says.
This is why SPG is currently funding a variety of research projects that ultimately aim to extend the knowledge around why and how to grow these two crops in Saskatchewan, as well as developing end-use markets for these crops.
One of the best ways to increase production and adoption of a new crop in the province is to better understand its benefits and contributions, and how they compare to those of other regional crops.
One SPG-funded research project, led by Dr. Jeff Schoenau, aims to do just that by researching the nutrient uptake requirements of soybeans grown under Saskatchewan conditions, and the contribution that the residue makes to nutrition and yield of following cereal and canola crops grown in rotation (in comparison to pea and lentil).
“Soybeans appear to be a good crop option, with good yields and ability to derive nitrogen from the atmosphere, which is an important benefit of having a pulse crop in rotation,” says Dr. Schoenau, a Professor and Ministry of Agriculture Strategic Research Chair in the University of Saskatchewan’s Department of Soil Science.
So far his research, which began in 2014, has found that soybeans had comparable yields to peas and lentils at the four test sites across the province. The nutrient uptake was closely correlated with the yields, with soybeans having medium-to-high uptake of phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and magnesium when compared to peas and lentils. There were also higher contents of phosphorus and potassium in the grain.
“The higher amounts of phosphorus and potassium in soybean grain, which is removed during harvest, points to the need to pay more attention to the fertility of these nutrients when soybeans are grown in rotation,” he says.
The research also showed that the amounts of nitrogen in the soybean plant derived from fixation of atmospheric nitrogen were lower compared to peas and lentils, but with a slightly higher proportion of nitrogen derived from the atmosphere for soybean compared to the other two pulse crops. About 60 per cent of the nitrogen in the soybean plant was determined to come from fixation, indicating that — similar to the traditional pulses — nitrogen-fixation inputs can be significant for this crop when properly inoculated and managed, Dr. Schoenau says.
“The supply of available nitrogen and phosphorus from the soil to wheat and canola grown the following year on soybean, pea, and lentil stubble was similar among the stubble types at the sites.”
Once the research is complete, Dr. Schoenau hopes to confirm relative nutrient requirements of different pulse crops and their impact on yield and nutrition of crops that follow in rotation, which will help growers optimize their short- and long-term nutrient management in rotations containing pulse crops.
“It will enable growers to adjust and fine-tune their fertilizer rates according to the specific crops they are growing.”
More SPG-funded research is looking at developing nitrogen and phosphorus management recommendations for soybean production in Saskatchewan. Meanwhile, soybean breeding projects at the University of Saskatchewan’s Crop Development Centre (CDC) are focused on developing short season, herbicide tolerant varieties with improved yield and disease resistance.
Another way to promote new crop options is to make them agronomically appealing to growers. And for soybean growers in Saskatchewan, one of the most crucial aspects for success is weed management.
This is why SPG has invested in research led by Dr. Chris Willenborg, Assistant Professor at the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Agriculture and Bioresources. Dr. Willenborg’s research aims to provide soybean growers with better options for managing glyphosate-resistant canola volunteers in glyphosate-resistant soybean crops, through use of pre-emergence and in-crop herbicides, seeding dates, and seeding rates.
The research is set to wrap up in late 2016, but Dr. Willenborg has made several important discoveries so far, including that 2,4-D herbicide (which is registered for use prior to seeding soybeans in Eastern Canada) consistently damaged the crops in trials run at four locations across Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
“However, we typically waited 7–10 days after application and it may require a longer period of time between application and seeding,” he says.
Furthermore, he found that pre-emergence applications of Roundup WeatherMAX® combined with FirstRate® or Authority® were just as effective at reducing volunteer canola biomass and dockage. Post-emergence treatments of Roundup WeatherMAX® plus Odyssey®, Viper®, Reflex®, or Basagran® Forte exhibited the lowest canola dockage.
What proved to be the most effective method of control however, was a combination of pre- and post-treatments, which Dr. Willenborg estimates should provide season-long control of multiple volunteer canola flushes.
“Herbicide treatments containing either Express® SG or Heat® as the pre-emergence herbicide, plus a post-emergence herbicide application, consistently showed lower crop injury and higher soybean yield,” he says. “Examples of herbicide combinations that worked well include Express® SG plus Basagran®, Heat® plus Viper®, or Express® SG plus Viper®. These combinations provided good volunteer canola control, relatively low soybean phytotoxicity, and high yield.”
Research so far has also found that higher seeding rates and later seeding dates generally resulted in higher soybean biomass and yield, and lower volunteer canola biomass.
“While we are still analyzing the data, it appears that fields with a high population of volunteer canola will need to be seeded at a higher rate in order to effectively compete with volunteer canola,” says Dr. Willenborg. “We found generally 60 plants per square metre (plants/m2) tended to produce strong yield and reductions in volunteer canola biomass and dockage, but seeding rates above 40-50 plants/m2 may not be economical when the possible herbicide options listed above are considered. However, growers must consider the potential contribution to the seedbank of any volunteer canola plants that do produce seeds.”
Overall, Dr. Willenborg believes that the herbicide recommendations that will result from this research will help soybean growers better manage their crops and minimize the impact of volunteer canola on soybean crops.
“In addition, our work suggests that by combining a two pass herbicide system with a slightly elevated seeding rate, it is possible to grow soybeans in rotation with canola, even if both crops possess the glyphosate-resistant trait,” he says.
However, he urges growers to always consider the long-term feasibility of a crop rotation that reliesheavily on a single trait for weed control, such as glyphosate resistance. While it is possible, growers need to manage these rotations with weed resistance and long-term sustainability in mind.
“Proper herbicide rotation and mixtures are key to avoid selecting for resistant weeds in such systems.”
Another SPG co-funded project, led by Dr. Kan-Fa Chang, of Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, looked at how root rot affects faba beans and explored fungicide seed treatments for managing fusarium root rot in the tannin-free faba bean cultivar Snowbird.
The results showed that Fusarium affected the crop in terms of declining seedling emergence and seed yield, and that some seed treatment fungicides showed potential for controlling the disease. Further work is needed to support registration of these seed treatments but overall this research demonstrated potential for increasing economic returns to faba bean growers with improved fusarium root rot control, an area which SPG will continue to explore.
Other SPG-funded research related to the agronomy of these new crops aims to improve the nitrogen contribution to prairie cropping systems through faba beans, to develop a rhizobial inoculant for faba beans, and to optimize seeding rates, row spacing, inoculant options, and disease management in faba bean varieties. The effects of moisture management on soybeans and faba beans in Saskatchewan is also being looked at.
In order to promote growth of new crops in Saskatchewan, it is also critical to ensure we are growing varieties that are not only well-suited to local growing conditions, but that meet end-use market needs.
One challenge to the faba bean market is that in some regions of the world (particularly the Mediterranean and Africa), some people suffer from a disease known as favism which can be linked to serious allergies to faba beans. People who suffer from this disease, usually men, are lacking an enzyme that impacts the blood circulation in their body, causing the destruction of red blood cells.
It can be potentially life-threatening, but one Italian researcher strongly suspected that faba bean cultivars with low levels of vicine and convicine (V/C) were not dangerous for people who suffer from favism, and decided to test this. Funded by SPG, Dr. Paolo Arese, at the University of Torino Medical School’s Department of Genetics, Biology and Biochemistry, conducted research on seven male volunteers who were highly susceptible to favism (previous research on lesssusceptible females strongly suggested there were no threats with the research). The volunteers were given raw, dehulled faba beans in quantities that exceeded normal human consumption levels for seven days and their blood was tested after each ingestion. The short and long-term results of these blood tests showed that there was no indication of hemolysis or stress on red blood cells. This lead the team to conclude that low V/C faba beans were safe for human consumption even in those that suffer from, or are susceptible to, favism.
These results have been adopted by faba bean breeders globally. The CDC is currently working on developing tools for breeding new varieties that combine good adaptation with low V/C, with the goal of growers having access to superior varieties desired by end markets and end-users.
Other SPG-funded research focuses more specifically on end-use characteristics of faba bean, exploring the benefits of the crop as ingredients in novel food products and their effect on glycemia, appetite, and metabolic control. For a list of SPG-funded research focused on developing new crop options for Saskatchewan, download the magazine.