Did you know?
All of Canada’s prairie provinces have the right soil and climate to grow pulse products but right here in Saskatchewan, we grow more than 80% of all Canadian grown chickpeas! To give you an idea of how much that really is, in 2015 alone Canada exported 6 million tonnes of pulses worth more than $4.2 billion!!!
So here at Three Farmers we often get asked about how we manage to handle the challenges faced in farming and handle them in a sustainable manner. Read a bit more here in the blog and then subscribe to our newsletter; each month we try to share a tidbit from our farmers - which is usually an interesting in field perspective of farming in Saskatchewan!
Why are chickpeas beneficial to Canadian farmland?Growing a polyculture of crops (intercropping) is a very difficult technique and so most farmers use direct seeding and crop rotation to maintain the soil’s health. Proper crop rotations help maintain the health of our soils. Introducing pulses to a crop rotation is very beneficial as pulse crops leave behind nitrogen residues to sustain future crops grown in the same soil.
Pulses such as chickpeas have an extremely low water footprint. They grow in dry land agriculture and utilize very little water compared to traditional crops such as wheat. They also utilize the shallow water in the soil, leaving deeper water reserves for future crops grown in the crop rotation.
What are some challenges of growing chickpeas in Canada?
Chickpeas can be extremely difficult to grow due to climate and excessive moisture can cause problems for chickpea plants. Chickpeas are highly susceptible to a disease called Ascochyta Blight. This disease can completely destroy up to 90% of a kabuli crop. Symptoms include tan/brown lesions on the stem of the plant which causes the plant to wilt and die.
These lesions can ooze spores in wet and humid conditions. Rainfall causes these spores to spread, as does wind. If the weather takes a turn and becomes warm and dry, there is a chance the plants will survive however the plant will be delayed in maturity and yield will decrease.
A good pest management program is crucial for managing chickpea crops. Some of the actions that our farmers take to ward off disease include:
- Proper Crop Rotation – 3 to 4 year crop rotations with cereal crops in between planting chickpea crops is vital as is field placement which means not planting chickpeas in an adjacent field the following year.
- Inter cropping – intercropping (the practice of seeding more than one crop in a field) helps limit the spread of disease as placement of the chickpea plants will be further apart.
- Scouting – this requires frequent crop checking beginning 2 to 3 weeks after seeding and continuing every few days through the seedling stage. Rainfall causes our farmers to increase their scouting routine to ensure they catch any early warning signs of disease. Imagine scouting your garden for disease except this is football fields upon football fields in size!
In some cases, if Ascochyta Blight is detected, in order to save the crop from 90% failure, a curative fungicide will be applied to ward off the spread of the disease and aid in the production of a healthy chickpea crop. Timing is extremely important in catching and preventing disease.
How are chickpeas harvested?
Chickpeas are typically straight cut, meaning they are not swathed before combining. Timing is very important when harvesting chickpeas. An over ripened crop can lead to decrease in yield while harvesting a crop too young may lead to increased chance of green seed in the crop which yields a lower grade.