Just a few years ago, you wouldn’t find many pulses in prairie fields. Despite their nitrogen-fixing characteristics, they didn’t yield well. Today, many prairie growers find that putting today’s pulses into regular rotation give year-round benefits.
Advanced genetics make the difference
Growers who tried pulses years ago may be surprised at how well adapted today’s pulses are to the prairies. In recent years, genetics have adapted pulses to prairie climates far better than ever before. Yields are solid for pulse crops, and many growers find deciding between canola and pulses may be a toss-up, economically.
Pulses fix nitrogen into soil
Benefits of including pulses in rotation
Pulses are well-known for fixing nitrogen in the soil; that makes them a smart choice to rotate with wheat or canola. But growers may not anticipate other benefits, says Nevin Rosaasen, policy and programs specialist with the Alberta Pulse Growers Commission.
Benefits of pulses include:
- Fixing nitrogen in the soil
- Improved soil tilth
- Breaking the disease or pest cycle, when grown in rotation with other crops
- Reducing fuel use overall
- Improved quality and yield in non-pulse crops in the rotation
One grower’s pulse story
Grower Rod Bradshaw of Bowden, AB, has experimented with pulses for nearly 30 years, but about 10 years ago, they really began to pay off. Part of his experimentation had been driven by customer demand, but today’s genetics have made the difference.
Bradshaw now grows faba beans regularly and typically sees yields around 55 bushels per acre. Because of the faba beans’ nitrogen fixing ability, he spends less overall. “We are getting more nitrogen benefit from faba beans versus peas,” says Bradshaw. “You can put a little in the bank because you’re not buying commercial fertilizer.”