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Varietal Improvement and High Market Price Encourage Lentil Production (PCN Spring 2016) MAR 29 2016 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News

This article appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of Pulse Crop News.

Neil Whatley, Alberta Agriculture & Forestry

There has been remarkable improvement in lentil genetics in recent years, contributing to an increase in grower satisfaction. Several of the newer red lentil varieties possess improved characteristics compared with the older green varieties, i.e.: Laird and Eston, which producers historically grew or experimented with in Alberta. Given lentil’s current high price and its improved agronomic traits, it appears to be another good crop option in 2016.

Lentil varietal research on the Canadian Prairies has developed red lentil varieties with improved resistance to selected herbicides, disease resistance, lodging prevention, earlier maturity, a more determinant growth habit and improved seed yield.

CDC Maxim CL and CDC Dazil CL, for example, are CLEARFIELD varieties, so are tolerant to IMI herbicides (Group 2) such as Odyssey. These varieties have ‘good’ resistance to the once devastating ascochyta blight disease, and Maxim, for example, has ‘good’ resistance to both ascochyta and anthracnose, traditionally the most common foliar lentil diseases. Dazil has ‘fair’ resistance to anthracnose. Plant breeding has created a thicker, stronger stem base, minimizing lodging issues. Along with earlier maturity, a more determinant growth habit has also been bred into these varieties.

So, varieties like Maxim and Dazil are more ensured to set seed instead of growing vegetatively if precipitation is present during the latter part of the growing season. The new red lentil varieties are also higher yielding than traditional varieties.

Red lentils are highly adapted to Alberta growing conditions, especially the Brown, Dark Brown and Thin Black soil zones. The 10-year average red lentil yield in Western Canada is 1,400 lbs/acre.

Experienced growers harvest 1,800 to over 2,000 lbs/ac on a good year. With current red lentil prices soaring above 45 cents/lb, this is a very good economic return on investment. Experienced pulse growers readily admit that market opportunity isn’t the only reason to include a grain legume in their crop rotation. Positive rotational effects from growing pulses also include disease and insect breaks for other crop types, soil water use efficiency in rotation with cereals and oilseeds, lower overall nitrogen fertilization cost, improved soil tilth and promotion of beneficial soil biological activity.