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Yields could top expectations

Outlook good | Pulse crops are performing well despite wet conditions, says processor

Pea and lentil forecasters should pull out their erasers and then pencil in bigger average yield projections, according to industry observers.

“If you look at the big picture, we’re going to produce more than an average crop,” said Greg Simpson, president of Simpson Seeds Inc., one of Saskatchewan’s largest lentil processors.

Half of the estimated 2.46 million acres of lentils planted in Canada this year are red lentils.

“We’re going to be cranking out a pretty good red lentil crop here in a matter of six weeks,” said Simpson.

The positive outlook comes despite excessively wet conditions within a 100-kilometre radius of Moose Jaw, where pulse crops are either underwater or struggling. The area is also one of the province’s prime lentil growing regions.

“The wettest feet is somewhere between Regina and Moose Jaw,” said Simpson.

He estimated that 15 to 20 percent of the crops on his farm near Moose Jaw are underwater. That crop is dead, and anything surviving along the edge of the water won’t produce either. The remainder of the crop is doing well.

“It’s better than average yield on the stuff that’s above the slough line,” said Simpson.

Other pockets in the province are also dealing with excess moisture, but most pulse crops are faring well.

Saskatchewan Agriculture estimates 82 percent of the province’s lentil crop and 87 percent of its pea crop was in good to excellent condition as of July 1.

Stat Publishing editor Brian Clancey has heard reports of yellow pulse crops in some fields but thinks that the rain has done more good than harm.

He will be adjusting yields higher in his supply and demand estimates because of good moisture conditions.

Much of southern and northern Saskatchewan has received 115 to 150 percent of normal precipitation this growing season.

Heavy rain has often been followed by periods of hot and dry weather, which has done a good job of sucking up the excess water throughout most of the province.

“(Pulse crops have) recovered quite well for the most part except for the extreme low lying spots,” said Dale Risula, Saskatchewan’s special crops specialist.

“The hopes are still quite high for a good year for production. It’s still looking pretty good.”

A lack of air in the soil in wet spots is causing inadequate uptake of nutrients and energy, leaving the plants yellow. They are unable to fix nitrogen, and any nitrogen in the soil is subject to leaching.

Risula said there is a risk that waterlogged crops will suffer heat damage during flowering because they have poor root development, which makes them susceptible to heat and drought.

Flowering could be longer than usual this year, lasting into the last week of July or the first week of August because pulse crops are indeterminate. They continue flowering as long as nutrients and water are available, which is when they are most susceptible to heat damage.

Risula agreed that the prospect for poor yields from crops struggling in low-lying areas is more than offset by the expectation for above average yields in crops growing on non-saturated land.

Yields could be high because of the prolonged flowering period as long as there is an open fall, he added.

“If that happens, you could have an astoundingly huge bumper yield,” he said.

However, that built-up potential will be lost if there’s an early frost.

Not all pulse growers are pleased with the excess moisture, including the province’s chickpea growers, who are continually spraying to keep ascochyta blight fungus at bay.

“The guys who have chickpeas are not having any fun,” said Simpson.

“They are not having summer holidays and they’re not getting any golfing done.”

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