More than 250 people from the Upper Midwest and across the nation traveled to Minot this week to attend the Northern Pulse Growers Association's 16th Annual Convention, held at the Holiday Inn Riverside on Monday and Tuesday.
Throughout the two-day event, businesses on the regional and national level held exhibits showcasing the newest technology, products and innovative production techniques while research specialists and industry experts shared updated information on a variety of agricultural and pulse-centered activities ranging from changes in the 2008 Farm Bill and 2009 crop insurance to the new North Dakota State University Pulse Breeding program and region-specific research.
Dale Thorenson of Gordley and Associates discussed the logistical and financial strains of implementing all of the new farm bill programs and the impact on farmers as well as made predictions of future U.S. farm policy direction under the new Obama administration. Steve Junghans of the Risk Management Agency spoke of changes and updates to crop insurance for the 2009 crop year that could affect area producers.
More than 250 producers and agribusiness people attended the Northern Pulse Growers Association’s 16th Annual Convention, held Monday and Tuesday at the Holiday Inn Riverside in Minot.
Much of the convention focused on past and current research and market trends concerning the pulse industry, especially in the areas of disease-resistance, use of peas in cattle feed, international and domestic marketing, weed control, breeding varieties, crop quality and cover crops.
Research data and results from numerous locations throughout Montana and North Dakota were discussed by Montana State and North Dakota State University Extension specialists. Blaine Schatz, director of the Carrington Research Extension Center, spoke of the benefits of using peas in crop rotations as well as a component in cover crops. Taking it one step further, Gabe Brown, a Soil Conservation District supervisor, spoke of the natural soil health benefits that can be attained through the use of cover crops, which can replenish lost soil nutrients and provide grazing opportunities for livestock producers.
Because the use of peas in cattle feed is becoming increasingly common, Vern Anderson, from the Carrington Research Extension Center, spoke about current pea-fed beef research as well as future application possibilities.
Aside from soil health, weeds are also a concern for area pulse producers, so Weed Scientist Brian Jenks gave updated information on weed control strategies for the crops.
With the dramatic increase of pea production in the Upper Midwest over the last few years North Dakota is now the No. 1 producer of lentils and dry peas in the U. S. new disease and production challenges have surfaced.
Rubella Goswami, an NDSU plant pathologist and Sam Markell, an extension plant pathologist, spoke of current disease issues and possible management strategies while Chengci Chen, an associate professor of cropping systems at Montana State detailed research which concentrated on pulse crop inoculants and cultivar selections in the state. Karnes Neill, a research associate at Montana State, spoke of past and present pulse variety trials conducted in Montana and how that data might influence future cultivar use.
Bringing together all past and current research in the area, Kevin McPhee, a NDSU pulse breeder, gave participants an outline of what researchers will be working on at the new pulse breeding program as well as some of the unique challenges it will face in the upcoming years.
In the early stages, McPhee said the breeding program will focus on green and yellow peas and Turkish Red lentils, but as the program settles and expands, cafe-type chickpeas and other pea and lentil varieties will be brought into the research mix. The program objectives for all the varieties will be to increase disease resistance and yields, improve harvestability and seed quality and learn about the different components of the seed which might increase marketability. The program will face challenges in the short-term with unforeseen start-up problems, McPhee said, and will face long-term challenges in trying to conduct simulataneous research on peas, lentils and chickpeas.
Concerning the 2008 crop, Thunyaporn "Naggie" Jeradechachai, a pulse crop quality specialist with Northern Crop Institute, spoke about overall quality results as well as specific regional results within the state. Using extensive analysis techniques, she determined that the 2008 pulse crop was very similar to the 2007 crop in overall quality, but she noted a nearly 2 percent increase in total starch and a 4 percent increase in protein over last year's crop. Some standout districts include the Southwest and West Central counties which had the highest protein content and the East Central and Southeast regions which posted the highest starch contents.
With the 2008 crop quality established, the focus turned to international and domestic marketing now and in the future.
Mehmet Tulbek, technical director for NCI, said a series of events including prolonged drought and a shift by Turkish farmers to high-value crops from pulse and wheat crops will make Turkey the largest importer of those two crops by 2020, opening the door for North American producers looking for export opportunities. He added that current and future demand in Turkey will be primarily for red lentils, but depending on local events, there would be a market for green lentils and green peas.
International marketing gave way to domestic as Dave Polries of Dakota Dry Bean Inc., Eric Bartsch of United Pulse Inc. and Justin Flaten of JM Grain Inc. spoke about current markets and made predictions for the future. Polries said the pea market has stabilized recently with a strong domestic demand in the pet food market due to recent Melamine scares in China and the surprise demand increase from India, especially since overall U.S. exports have dropped due to the strong value of the dollar. Polries predicts pea prices to improve over the next 3 months and remain viable come fall.
Both Bartsch and Flaten spoke of the hardships new crops face in terms of market price and contracts over the current crop being marketed and the benefit the pulse market has seen as a result of the USDA's food aid program. While the new crop will be hit hard by the current economy, Flaten said he anticipates green peas to retain a $1 to $2 premium over yellow peas and predicts chickpea prices to remain stable through next year. Bartsch added that although the market is going through environmental changes unseen before, he reminded convention producers, "the industry will continue to grow because at the core of it all, we are growing food for people."