Starting off Right – Best Management Practices (PCN Spring 2014) MAY 5 2014 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News
This article appeared in the Spring 2014 issue of Pulse Crop News.
Pulse crops are great to have in a rotation but for producers who generally grow few pulse acres, here’s a quick refresher on best seeding practices. This guide will provide a quick overview on land preparation, varieties, inoculants, fertility and seeding management.
Choosing your pulse crop
Choosing the right crop and variety for your operation is the most important decision you will make, as that seed will have the potential to impact every step of the growing season. This decision will be mostly impacted by what market is available for your crop, rather than the agronomics of how it will grow on your farm. Look at what marketing options are available BEFORE choosing a crop and variety. Check the Alberta Pulse Growers website for a list of buyers.
After determining what pulse crop to grow, you’ll need to find the right seed. The Alberta Seed Guide is a good place to start looking for varieties and growers. Growing certified seed guarantees that the seed you buy has gone through all proper multiplication, inspection and cleaning processes to ensure a pure product.
The Alberta Seed Guide, the Alberta Pulse Growers website, Ropin the Web and the winter edition of Pulse Crop News also has varietal information from the pulse Regional Variety Trials that are funded by the commission each year. These trials include data on standability, maturity rating and disease resistance. Standability scores are rated from 1-9, the scores closer to 1 are more erect. Lodging of a pulse crop can be worsened by disease and make harvest difficult so look for varieties with scores from 2-4.
Preparing your land
Rolling your land can be beneficial for pushing down rocks to make harvesting a shorter or lodged crop easier on equipment. Rolling land is common, however timing is important. According to Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development “pre-emergence rolling for pulse crops is the preferred approach, as opposed to post-emergence, with certain exceptions. Pre-emergence rolling is not recommended under the following conditions: extremely wet conditions on clay soils prone to crusting, sandy soils prone to erosion, dry soils prone to erosion or pea soils.” Pots-emergence rolling can be done on peas or lentils but pre-emergent rolling is preferred.
Some suggestions for rolling your field
- Roll the field soon after seeding if possible as late seeding may cause bruising of the stem and increase risk of disease spreading.
- Roll the field when the soil surface is dry, not in the morning. Rolling wet leaves can also cause disease to spread.
- Rolling headlands is not necessary as it can result in double rolling and can thin out a crop.
Pulse crops require planned disease and pest management strategies throughout the season, but applying an early spring burn-down and pre-emergent herbicide can ensure your crop gets a head start on weeds.
One of the most important inputs for any pulse crop is inoculant. Inoculant is comprised of bacteria called rhizobia that cause root nodule formation on legume crops. Good nodulation is key for nitrogen fixation by these crops. Soil already contains some rhizobium bacteria but adding inoculant at seeding ensures your crop has enough of the rhizobia when seed germination and root formation occurs. It is important to choose an inoculant that has a strain of rhizobia specific to the pulse crop that you are growing.
It is advised to inoculate your seed the day that you seed, depending on the type of inoculant you use and some inoculants can be mixed with pesticides or fertilizer. To choose a proper inoculant, ensure you talk to your input supplier and read all labels carefully.
Inoculants come in three formulations
- Peat powder inoculant: Applied directly to the seed with a nontoxic sticking agent, this formulation is a finely ground peat that contains over a billion rhizobia per gram. Peat powder inoculant is one of the most common types used in Canada.
- Liquid inoculant: This formulation, which also contains over a billion rhizobia per gram, is applied directly to the seed, and because it comes in liquid form, a sticking agent is typically included in the fluid. Liquid inoculant comes in bags that make it easy to distribute evenly onto the seed while it is being augered into a truck box or through a drill fill.
- Granular soil inoculant: Unlike peat powder or liquid inoculants, granular soil inoculant is not applied directly to the seed but, rather, with the seed in the seed row. This formulation does, however, contain the same amount of rhizobia as both the powder and liquid inoculants and is gaining in popularity because it works well over a range of environmental conditions (i.e. lower pH, dry).
Treating seed will help ensure your pulse crop gets off to a healthy start as disease can cause yield loss, harvest problems and poor seed quality. These diseases can be controlled in-part, through sound agronomic and chemical controls. Use Alberta Agriculture’s Blue Book for an up-to-date resource and talk with your agronomist or input supplier about pulse seed treatments.
Each crop is susceptible to different types of seedling diseases such as seedling blight, root rot, damping off and foot rot caused by soil-borne pathogens; Fusarium, Rhizoctonia and Pythium.
Pulse crops remove nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium and sulphur) from the soil. Soil testing is the best way to determine fertility requirements of your land. Added nitrogen is not required by pulse crops as these crops fix nitrogen from the air for their own use. Phosphorous is the most common macronutrient required, but crop response to potassium, sulphur and micronutrients is less common. Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development has more information on pulse crop nutrient requirements on their website, Ropin the Web, under the Crop Information section.
Seeding Best Management Practices
The following chart will provide you with a good overview of generally recommended seeding practices for pulses in Alberta. While these practices are advisable, actual practices may vary from operation to operation.
Seeding Rate Calculation
This calculation is used to determine the seeding rate which will achieve recommended viable plants/ft².
Seeding rate (lbs/ac) = (desired plant population/ft² X 1,000 kernel weight [g]) / expected seed survival (ie: 0.9=90%)
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