What’s new in pulse crops for 2024? In this week’s edition of Growing Possibilities, we look at three positive developments in the Canadian as well as Northern US pulse market.
- The possibility of a trade deal with China
- New genetics for disease resistance and yield
- Microbial research into drought resistance
In November of 2023 Pulse Canada representatives visited China for the first time since 2018. They were able to meet with their peers in the Chinese pulse market and sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the China Chamber of Commerce of Foodstuffs and Native Produce (CFNA) (1). The CFNA is an important stakeholder in the Chinese market, and they expressed interest in the import of Canadian Pulse products including peas and faba beans. It is believed that these could feed the growing need for pulse protein in the Chinese market.
Back on the prairies, new higher yielding genetics are here with more coming down the pipeline. As of 2020, 129 varieties of pulse crops had been released royalty free to growers through the partnership that existed between Sask Pulse Growers and the University of Saskatchewan (2). In their 2024 Pulse Variety Seminar Sask Pulse reported that older varieties from 2005-2010 still tend to be the dominant varieties. However newer higher yielding varieties exist presenting opportunities for many farmers to upgrade their yield potential in pulses simply by switching to newer royalty free varieties (2).
Moving forward, Sask Pulse has switched their funding model and taken an investor mindset drawing investors from outside the province to bring in capital and produce varieties with better disease resistance and higher yields that will no longer be royalty free (3, 4). Limagrain, a French farming cooperative, is bringing their financial resources to bear on this project. They hope to breed multiple generations per year using their greenhouse technology leading to market ready varieties in as little as 6 years (2). This brings a capitalist mindset to the pulse market. These new varieties will need to have outstanding traits in drought, and disease resistance to compete with the royalty free varieties that will remain available to farmers.
Over in Europe a new study suggests that farmers have the tools to promote drought resistance in their pulse crops today and it comes in the form of rhizobial inoculants. In this study selected indigenous rhizobial strains were shown to help with drought tolerance in pulses. The study found that to be effective the strains needed to be drought resistant and to interact in synergy with the native soil microflora to effectively colonize the plant roots (5). This in turn led to shoot biomass protection and greater flowering capacity. While this study was carried out in Northern Spain the results speak to the effects, we have seen in our own inoculant technology developed on the prairies for prairie farmers. XiteBio® PulseRhizo® powered by AGPT® was designed to work in synergy with native soil microflora. In testing our AGPT® technology has been shown to be effective and boost yields even in adverse drought like conditions (6).
So, what’s new in pulse crops for 2024? While there are challenges that exist for pulse farmers in Canada and the Northern United States, we believe in the ability of the agriculture industry to adapt and overcome. Agriculture is one of the fastest moving & most innovative industries on the planet and we believe that farmers & agricultural research organizations can find solutions and forge a way forward for the pulse market. Together we can strive to produce healthier plants and better yields.