Sustainability
Pulses improve the sustainability of cropping systems


Like most grain crops in Canada, pulses are grown in “dry land” agriculture. In 2010, of the 7.2 million acres of pulses grown in Canada, only 0.7% of the pulse area was irrigated1. Pulses are a protein source with a very low water footprint. By comparison, the water footprints to produce a kilogram of beef, pork, chicken and soybeans are 18, 11 and 5 times higher than the water footprint of pulses2.

Pulse crops such as pea, lentil and chickpea are well adapted to the semi-arid conditions of the Canadian Prairie. They use less water and can tolerate drought stress better than crops like wheat or canola3, 4. Pulse crops also use water in a different way than other crops grown in rotation, extracting water from a shallower depth, leaving more water deep in the soil for the following year’s cereal or oilseed crop5. The water use characteristics of pulse crops effectively increases the water use efficiency of the entire crop rotation6.

References

1. Source: Canadian pulse production statistics
2. Hoekstra, A.Y. and Chapagain, A. 2008. Globalization of Water: Sharing the Planet’s Freshwater Resources. Wiley-Blackwell.
3. Angadi, S.V., McConkey, B.G., Cutforth, H.W., Miller, P.R., Ulrich, D., Selles, F., Volkmar, K.M., Entz, M.H. and Brandt, S.A. 2008. Adaptation of alternative pulse and oilseed crops to the semiarid Canadian Prairie: Seed yield and water use efficiency. Canadian Journal of Plant Science. 88: 425-438.
4. Cutforth, H.W., Angadi, S.V., McConkey, B.G., Entz, M.H., Ulrich, D., Volkmar, K.M., Miller, P.R. and Brandt, S.A. 2009. Comparing plant water relations for wheat with alternative pulse and oilseed crops grown in the semiarid Canadian prairie. Canadian Journal of Plant Science. 89: 826-835.
5. Gan, Y.T., Campbell, C.A., Liu, L., Basnyat, P. and McDonald, C.L. 2009. Water use and distribution profile under pulse and oilseed crops in semiarid northern high latitude areas. Agricultural Water Management. 96: 337-348.
6. Gan, Y.T., Zentner, R.P., Campbell, C.A., Biederbeck, V.O., Selles, F. and Lemke, R. 2002. Conserving soil and water with sustainable cropping systems: research in the semiarid Canadian Prairies. Presentation to 12th ISCO Conference, Beijing, China.
Source? APG, SPG, MPGA, OBPMB production stats...
Globalization of Water: Sharing the Planet’s Freshwater Resources


Hoekstra, A.Y. and Chapagain, A. 2008. Globalization of Water: Sharing the Planet’s Freshwater Resources. Wiley-Blackwell.

Adaptation of alternative pulse and oilseed crops to the semiarid Canadian Prairie: Seed yield and water use efficiency

This 2008 research paper, published in the peer-reviewed Canadian Journal of Plant Science, studied water use by pulses and other crops. The ability of crops to adapt to different water conditions is important because moisture for crop growth is frequently in short supply.

The study included three pulses (chickpea, lentil, and pea) as well as canola, mustard, and wheat. Three different moisture conditions were studied: drought, normal rainfall, and irrigation. The study took place in Saskatchewan over four years.

Of the crops studied, wheat and pea had the highest yields and highest water use efficiency, while pea used the least amount of water. Chickpea and lentil produced good yields even when water was limited. Under severe drought conditions, where some crops did not produce any appreciable yields, chickpea and lentil were able to maintain at least some yields. The study concluded that pulse crops are well-suited to low moisture conditions.

Comparing plant water relations for wheat with alternative pulse and oilseed crops grown in the semiarid Canadian prairie

Published in the Canadian Journal of Plant Science in 2009, this peer-reviewed study examines the drought tolerance of different crops. Drought tolerance is important because precipitation in the Canadian Prairies can be low and unpredictable.

The crops studied were pea, chickpea, canola, mustard and wheat. Each crop was grown under three different water conditions: drought, normal rainfall, and irrigation. It was conducted in Saskatchewan during a two year period. The paper first provides some background about how individual plant cells are affected by water stress before examining each crop’s response to drought in detail.

The study found that pea and chickpea had the greatest ability to withstand water stress, followed by wheat and then the two oilseed crops. This research shows the advantage of growing pulses in drought-prone areas.

Water use and distribution profile under pulse and oilseed crops in semiarid northern high latitude areas

This peer-reviewed article was published in the journal Agricultural Water Management in 2008. The purpose of the research was to describe in detail how pulse and oilseed crops use water. Water stress can significantly restrict crop production, so it is important that crops can thrive even in low and unpredictable moisture conditions.

The study included pea, lentil, chickpea, canola, and mustard. It measured the amount of water each crop used at different soil depths. Each crop was grown under two different moisture conditions: normal rainfall and irrigation. It was conducted in Saskatchewan over a two-year period.

Results showed that pulse crops tended to use water more slowly than oilseeds or wheat. Pulses also used less water from deep in the soil. This unused water would benefit a deep-rooted crop grown after a pulse. All three pulses studied, but particularly lentil and chickpea, were well-adapted to drought conditions. These results are useful for planning crop rotations to use water resources more efficiently.

Conserving soil and water with sustainable cropping systems: research in the semiarid Canadian Prairies

This article was prepared for the 2002 International Soil Conservation Organization conference held in Beijing. It was written by several researchers from Agriculture and AgriFood Canada. The paper summarizes two research projects conducted in Saskatchewan that looked at the effect of pulses on water use efficiency and soil quality.

One of the studies was long-term (more than 30 years) and included continuous wheat, wheat/fallow, or wheat/lentil rotations. The other study was short-term (two years) and included oilseeds, wheat, and pulses (lentil, pea, and chickpea).

The two studies found that using pulses reduced the leaching of nitrates, which minimizes the possibility of groundwater pollution. Including pulses also resulted in better soil quality than continuous wheat. In particular, pulses increased soil organic matter and promoted larger, more diverse populations of soil microbes. Rotations that included pulses required less nitrogen fertilizer, particularly when pea was grown. Pulses, especially pea and lentil, also tended to conserve water for the following crop. Overall, rotations that included pulses improved water and nutrient use efficiency, increased yields and raised protein concentrations.

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