Advisor Profile: Les Bell (PCN Winter 2015) DEC 22 2014 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News
This article appeared in the Winter 2015 issue of Pulse Crop News.
Les Bell, APG Advisor and Chair of Zone 2
Pulse Crop News: Please tell us about your family and your farm.
Les Bell: I am the second generation of my family on our farm. My dad came to work as a hired man on this farm after returning from the Second World War and he later purchased the farm. My wife, Cathy, and I took over the farm in the early 1990s and now crop about 2,500 acres. We have four kids. Sadly, our oldest daughter, Carlie, passed away when she was 19, which was a major blow to our family. Our second daughter, Kirsti Ann, is in her second year at the U of A. Nathan, our oldest son, just graduated high school and is working for a year before going to post-secondary school, and Evan, the youngest, is in Grade 11 at Three Hills High School.
PCN: What has been your experience with growing pulse crops?
LB: Well, it hasn’t always been good – I don’t enjoy harvesting peas that are flat on the ground. However, we have learned that with the right equipment even that can be done. I feel the benefits of having a pulse in the rotation make growing the crop worthwhile. I would say there is normally a 10 bushel per acre benefit to growing wheat on peas as opposed to wheat on wheat stubble.
PCN: What percentage of your crop is made up of pulses this year?
LB: We grow 20 to 25 per cent of our acres in peas every year.
PCN: What did you grow this year?
LB: Our rotation is generally wheat, canola, barley and peas. This year we had a small field of faba beans.
PCN: What tips or tricks have you learned growing pulses that you could share with new growers?
LB: One of the most important things is getting a good plant stand. Seed size can vary greatly from one seed lot to another so doing a 1,000 kernel weight and planting accordingly is important.
PCN: What advice would you share with producers thinking about growing pulses?
LB: Sow thistle can be a big ugly mess in peas. We have found Basagran does a pretty good job on them. The window of application is small, from the time the sow thistle emerge but before the first pea flowers develop, and you need the weather to cooperate in that time period. It may not have much effect on the yield of the pea crop but it will make harvest easier and helps keep the weed seed bank down. Another thing is that even in the drier areas it seems most years a fungicide application will pay off both in yield and standability at harvest.
PCN: What sparked your interest in APG?
LB: I was interested in getting involved in some aspect of agriculture larger than just our farm. I attended the zone meeting in Three Hills for several years which got me interested in APG and at that point they were looking for advisors. It has been a very interesting experience so I’m glad that I got involved.
PCN: Is there an issue that is particularly important to you?
LB: I’m not sure you would call it an issue or just an interest. I think I have a lot to learn about the soil and how to improve soil health. No-till has been a big step in that direction as has the inclusion of pulses within a crop rotation. Now I am looking for the next step – whatever that may be.
PCN: What is the biggest issue facing your farm this year?
LB: Root rot was a huge issue in our area this year. We are all hoping someone is going to come up with the magic fungicide that is going to solve the root rot problem, but I am wondering if this may be just a symptom of a soil health problem. This has reignited my interest in soil health. At this point I have more questions than answers.
PCN: What has been the biggest benefit of your involvement with the APG zone?
LB: I have found the quality of the people involved, from advisors and directors to staff, has been great. They are progressive, optimistic and enthusiastic about the industry. It’s hard not have that rub off on you.
PCN: Why would you recommend that pulse producers attend the January AGM?
LB: Come out to see what your commission is doing on your behalf. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much is going on. Also, they always have an interesting guest speaker on some aspect of the pulse industry.
Thank you, Les. We are looking forward to continuing to benefit from your contributions.