For Producers, Production, Pulse School

Pulse School – Top 5 Tips for a Great Lentil Crop

There’s plenty of excitement surrounding lentils heading into the 2016 growing season, with record acres expected.

In this Pulse School episode, Shannon Chant of Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Agriculture shares her top five tips for a good (or even great) lentil crop:

5 Tips for a Great Lentil Crop

1. Good quality seed — Of course it starts with the seed. In addition to good germination and vigour, pay attention to disease levels. Chant recommends using a seed treatment if ascochyta levels are higher than 5 percent and finding different seed if ascochyta exceeds 10 percent. Fusarium, botrytis and sclerotinia shouldn’t total more than 10 percent, she notes.

2. Variety selection — Lentil maturities range from about 100 to 110 days in maturity. Moderate ascochyta blight resistance is bred into some varieties. She recommends checking the Saskatchewan Seed Guide for info on yield, maturity and disease resistance.

3. Field selection — Weed populations, volunteers, residual herbicides and sclerotinia pressure should all be considered when choosing lentil ground (as well as available N, but more on that later).

“Lentils are not that great a competitor with weeds, so you want to get a weed-free field,” she explains.

There are also at least 12 residual herbicides that require a two year wait before growing lentils. Others require even longer.

Cereal stubble is the preferred seedbed, as cereal volunteers are easier to control than broadleafs. Broadleaf crops may also carry higher sclerotinia pressure.

4. Seeding rate — The traditional recommendation is to aim for 12 plants per square foot (~130 plants/m²) after measuring a thousand kernel weight. TKW can vary widely, notes Chant.

New research from the University of Saskatchewan shows you can double the seeding rate for extra small red lentils from 130 seeds/m² to 260 seeds/m² and still see yield improvements. Seeding rates should also be bumped up to increase competition in weedy fields, says Chant.

5. Nodulation and fertility — First of all, make sure to inoculate with the right Rhizobium strain for lentils, she notes.

Going back to field selection, nodulation can suffer if lentils are planted in soil with over 50 lbs/ac of available N. If there’s less than 15 lbs/ac of N available, Chant suggests applying 18 lbs of starter N as nodulation usually takes 3-4 weeks. Nitrogen can also be applied later if there’s a nodulation failure.

Phosphorus is also required for good nodulation.

“For a 1,400 lb/acre crop, you need about 20 pounds of phosphorus (P2O5) and that’s close to what’s safe to place with the seed,” says Chant.

Shannon also shared her top five list for “how to wreck a lentil crop”:

5 Ways to Wreck a Lentil Crop:

1. Poor field selection — choosing a weedy field or running into herbicide residual problems. Also don’t grow “Christmas lentils,” where volunteers from a previous crop result in a mix of red and greens.

2. Uneven maturity — poor establishment will lead to challenges throughout the growing season, including…

3. Improper herbicide timing — lentils are sensitive and will suffer injury if sprayed outside the labeled stages.

4. Grasshoppers — the threshold for grasshopper control is very low, as they directly impact yield by eating flowers and pods. Two or more grasshoppers per square meter likely warrants insecticide application, says Chant.

5. Marketing problems with maximum residual limits — talk to your buyer about market approvals for preharvest products.