Episode 7

Published on:

9th Jun 2020

Pulse Market Update & Understanding Rhizobia

Pulse crops offer some great benefits to the farmers that pursue them. Today we will talk about the market opportunities pulse crops offer especially during current uncertain times in regards to the Covid Pandemic. We also discuss the benefits offered by the nitrogen fixing bacteria to the soil associated with these crops. 

Dr. Anton Bekkerman joins us from Montana State University to explain the effects of Covid on the pulse crop markets. With the possibility of shelter in place on the horizon, consumers bought a lot of storable goods including canned beans. He anticipates that the pandemic will likely increase the desire and need for these products and may result in long term consumer habits regarding pulse crop consumption.

“What makes peas, lentils, chickpeas, and other beans, particularly special is that they represent an alternative storable relatively cheap source of protein.” - Dr. Anton Bekkerman

From a global perspective, Dr. Bekkerman explains that any new trade deals have likely been put on hold. He expects the global pulse crop market is likely to be “in the status quo for the next year.” Pulse crops do not have a futures market so predicting prices can be difficult. Dr. Bekkerman recommends looking at the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service to see spot prices for pulse crops which although not guaranteed can indicate a potential value. He also highly recommends Canada Ag Statistics to get an idea of what markets are predicted to look like in Canada for pulse crops which often correlates with markets in the US.

“If I were to make a bet right now, I would say lentils are probably going to be the crop to market in September and October.” - Dr Anton Bekkerman

Beyond a niche market for consumers, pulse crops also greatly benefit the soil. Dr. Audrey Kalil,a plant pathologist at the North Dakota State University Williston Research Extension Center, joins us to explain how best to encourage the nitrogen fixing benefits the bacteria associated with pulse crops can offer. She recommends a granular inoculant that will best promote the rhizobia bacteria. Unfortunately this is also the most expensive form of inoculant. There are also peat and liquid applications available to improve the bacteria’s nitrogen fixing ability that are less expensive and can still improve the rhizobial activity. A big benefit she highlights of pulse crops is that they not only add “nitrogen to your system” but they are also building your soil. Unfortunately, this does not always translate directly into yield growth. The benefits may be “hidden.”

“I would be careful when folks say they’re not seeing the yield benefit to inoculation because that might not be the best way to understand whether you’re achieving what you want to achieve.” - Dr. Audrey Kalil

This Week on Growing Pulse Crops:

  • Meet Dr. Anton Bekkerman from Montana State University
  • Learn about how the pulse crop market has responded to the ongoing global pandemic
  • Explore resources available online to better understand what markets may look like in the fall
  • Also, meet Dr. Audrey Kalil a plant pathologist at North Dakota State University
  • Find out how to get the most out of the nitrogen fixing properties associated with pulse crops
  • Learn how to evaluate the possible advantages to adding pulse crops to your rotation

Growing Pulse Crops Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.

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About the Podcast

Growing Pulse Crops
The science and business of farming field peas, chickpeas, and lentils
This show features the latest in research, agronomy, and economics of pulse crops (peas, chickpeas, lentils, etc.).

Demand for these nutrient-dense, high-protein foods continues to grow. There is also interest from farmers to include more pulses into diverse rotations for benefits like nitrogen fixation and soil health.

But the industry continues to face challenges, and we are eager to address these head on. So if you’re a pulse grower or in any way interested in these important crops, hit subscribe and stay tuned for future episodes. We’ll be back with plenty of information about challenges pulse farmers are facing throughout the U.S. and what solutions are working.

Brought to you by the Pulse Crops Working Group with support from the North Central IPM Center and USDA NIFA.

About your host

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Tim Hammerich

I share stories about agriculture, agtech, and agribusiness on podcasts and radio.