Prairie pulses off to good start despite dry conditions

WINNIPEG (CNS) – Dry soil conditions persist across many portions of Western Canada but the outlook for pulse crops seems fairly promising, according to a crop extension specialist with the Saskatchewan government.

“For the pulses, seeding has been going fairly well,” said Daphne Cruise. “A lot of the pulses are in already.”

Many of the province’s chickpea, lentil and pea crops are located in the southern half of the province, but some of the traditional planting areas are starting to shift.

“A few years ago more pea acres were going up in the north and I think I’ve heard about a few more chickpea acres moving north as well,” she said.

According to Statistics Canada, Saskatchewan grew the lion’s share of Canada’s pulse crops last year and are predicted to plant the most this year too. Just under 280,000 acres of chickpeas are expected to be planted in 2018, 3.6 million acres of lentils and 2.2 million acres of dry peas.

In the south, soil conditions remain a concern for farmers. Little rain fell in 2017 and much of southern Saskatchewan saw little snow until late winter, when two or three blizzards blanketed the area.

“So I think the subsoil moisture is decent at this point. It’s just that the topsoil is drying out, especially in the top inch or two,” she said.

Cruise suspects pulse seeding in southern Saskatchewan will wrap up in the next couple of weeks. Rains will be needed soon after that to allow the plants to establish.

“If the pulse crops can get a foothold, and get those root systems going then I think they’ll do decent,” she said.

The dry conditions also lower the chance of disease.

When it comes to other dangers, the pea leaf weevil is one pest Cruise and her counterparts will be tracking closely.

Over the past few years, it has been spreading eastward through the province up to the Manitoba border and north of the TransCanada Highway.

“That’s one insect to look out for,” she said. “Seed treatment definitely helps in dealing with those adults and larvae feeding on the nodules and into the upper portions of the plant above ground.”

Fortunately, grasshoppers seem to be at a lower population for the time being, according to Cruise.

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