Field peas and pulse crops market in S.D.
There has been a lot of discussion this winter about field peas and other pulse crops such as chickpeas and lentils production in South Dakota due to the construction of a processing plant near Harrold, S.D.
Growing alternative crops always depends on a market existing for the crop, and once the decision is to try something new, then the issue becomes how to efficiently grow that crop. To help their customers, or if they become proficient in recommendations, take on new customers, ag consultants and ag retailer agronomists have to be ready.
Pulse crops are ones that have been successfully grown in South Dakota, where else in the nation is not widely talked about because they are a minor crop. But Ruth Beck, SDSU Extension agronomy field specialist has some tips to share about growing field peas in 2014.
"Let me start by reminding growers that pulse crops are not new to South Dakota. Field peas, chickpeas and lentils have been grown with success in central and western South Dakota for over 20 years," she said.
She added that long time pulse crop growers have found pulse crops to provide a reasonable and consistent rate of return to the investment. In addition, many of the growers have found that pulse crops also provide other benefits. For instance, field peas work well in rotations that include winter wheat.
Beck explained that peas are planted in early spring and most years are harvested in time to allow sufficient moisture recharge to occur before planting winter wheat that fall. When added to a field rotation, they can also break the cycle of weeds and diseases that can build with too many wheat or other grass crops in a sequence.
She added that these crops can also save on input costs.
"Because pulse crops are legumes, which means when they are inoculated properly, they can fix most of their own nitrogen. This significantly reduces fertilizer requirements as compared to other rotational crops," Beck said. "One of the biggest advantages of peas is they have a lot of potential salvage value. For instance, if poor weather at harvest reduces the suitability of the peas for the high-end markets, peas will still provide an excellent high protein livestock feed. In dry years peas can also be grown as a forage, because their growth is in the spring when there is often more soil moisture available."
One reason more growers have not planted pulse crops in the past is the fact that South Dakota growers do not have easy access to the processing markets. However, with the construction of a processing plant in central South Dakota, producers who have not grown pulse crops in the past may be considering this option now.