Research aims to utilize lesser known pulses

Aug 20, 2019

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The pulse and special crop program at the Crop Diversification Centre South has been focusing on the introduction and development of under-utilized crop choices that could enhance conventional crop rotations.
Though the program does include developing new varieties of pulses such as mung beans and chickpeas, it is the regional adaptability and the agronomic studies of cropping systems which can give the producer the economic advantage of using a new pulse crop in a field rotation.
“We are developing our own stuff for southern Alberta using the available resources provided,” states Manjula Bandara, special crop researcher with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. “We are slowly achieving good information about these crops”
Bandara is currently looking at varietal trials for chickpeas, mung beans, black gram and coriander. Developing varieties with specific traits is important for success. For example, the premium market is for large chickpeas used for salads and humus in North America.
Mung beans and black gram are both used in India and Sri Lanka where they are ground into flour for flatbread, while in China the bean flour is used for noodles.
Bandara believes both beans could be grown on the prairies for export purposes but currently more research is needed to develop early maturing and disease resistant varieties. Bacterial blight is a common disease affecting the crop. Existing varieties like short days and cool soils, neither of which occur in a northern prairie growing season.
But developing a variety is only the beginning informs Bandara. Developing the agronomic practices necessary for best production and understanding the benefits of using a pulse as part of a cropping rotation also need to be researched.
“Providing the best cultural practices to reach the genetic potential of a variety ensures is adoption into a cropping system.” 
Practices such as fertilizer application levels, weed control solutions and even plant density will all influence the potential yield of any variety. A current study at the CDCS is focused on determining the best application level and placement of phosphorus. 
“Existing pulse varieties are being tested for protein content. With an increased interest in plant protein, a higher content is preferred.”
A third research component led by Bandara is all about optimizing the frequency and sequence of pulses into a producer’s cereal rotation. The research which was started nine years ago, looks at a four or five year rotation with different pulse crops planted in different years during the rotation. The impact of having a pulse as part of the cereal or wheat rotation is measured based on the crops performance and on the performance of subsequence crops within the rotation. The crop rotation project is held at five different locations – three in Alberta and two in Saskatchewan.
“We have about 20 different crop possibilities. It is not easy to determine which crop and in which order provides the best option for a producer.”
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