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Editorial: Protecting our favourite pulse crops

February 27, 2024  By Derek Clouthier



There is no denying the health benefits of pulse crops like lentils, soybeans, and chickpeas, but for some, particularly children, seeing a pulse crop on their plate or in their bowl is not always a welcome sight. I am no exception. Though I love pretty much every bean out there today – one of my favourite summer salads is mixed beans with celery, red onion, and apple cider vinegar – there was a time when I picked kidney beans out of my chili and wouldn’t go near a bean salad with a 10-foot pole.

This childhood aversion to beans and peas should never have been the case with the numerous ways pulses, like lentils, chickpeas, and dry beans, can be used in various dishes from around the world. My family may not have been the most adventurous of eaters, but, as I’ve broadened my culinary horizons, I have come full circle when it comes to pulse crops, frequently enjoying dishes such as hummus, curried lentils, and Mexican black bean salad. Many pulses coming from Canada are still used as livestock feed, so pigs and cows certainly appreciate the value of a good lentil.

Given their versatility and health benefits, it’s important for growers, agronomists, and agriculture companies to use and produce the very best products to help protect pulse crops from diseases, weeds and insect damage.

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Diseases like Fusarium root rot, seedborne bacterial diseases such as aster yellow and blight, and fungal diseases like sclerotinia white mold and anthracnose can all have a devastating impact on the health and yield of pulse crops. Weed control is also essential for the survival of pulse crops, as pulses do not compete well with weeds.

Implementing an effective disease and weed management plan is important for farmers, and part of that plan includes the use of fungicides and herbicides.

In addition to using the right herbicides and fungicides, growers should employ an effective crop rotation plan, use quality seeds, and plant early. Monitoring your crop for signs of disease and weeds is also crucial to try and nip it in the bud early, particularly because there are fewer options for weed control in pulses than there are in other crops like wheat and canola. A pre-emergence herbicide plan to target areas of your field where weeds typically pop up is a good place to start. Avoid relying on one single herbicide to avoid resistance, and don’t have tunnel vision and only address what you see in your field – consider the possibility that other weed types could emerge at some point during the growing season.

Pulse crops have become an essential crop in the Canadian Prairies, experiencing a significant increase in seeded area back in 2001 and have never looked back. The Prairie climate is ideal for pulse crops, and, given their importance for Canadian exports and overall value from a health perspective, pulse crops should be a point of pride for all Canadians. 

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