A lack of best management practices for pulse and oilseed crop production specific to the Northeast discourages growers from including them into their crop rotations and taking advantage of the many agronomic and marketing benefits these crops have to offer. The most common crop rotation practiced in Maine consists of potatoes and small grains. Depressed and limited markets for small grains, primarily oats and barley, are putting increased pressure on the potato crop to generate the majority of farm revenue therefore decreasing the length of time between potato crops in the rotation. The inclusion of pulse and oilseed crops could aid in lengthening crop rotations, reduce crop inputs, break insect and disease cycles, and increase overall farm revenue both directly, due to their higher monetary value than small grains, and indirectly, by way of increased potato yields and quality by decreasing their frequency in the rotation.
In addition to challenges with crop production, livestock producers in the Northeast are largely reliant on importing concentrated protein and energy sources, primarily soybean meal and corn, from other areas of the country. If improvements in crop production can be made, alternative sources of protein and energy (pulse and oilseed meal), could offset this reliance on imports and strengthen a more complete agricultural system.
Research projects conducted in Maine from 2013 through 2016 focusing on field peas, lentils, chickpeas, flax, and sunflowers has been structured using management practices (seeding dates, seeding rates, row spacing, and fertilization strategies) developed in the Northern Plains and the prairie provinces of Canada. While some of these crops and management practices are applicable and work well in the Northeast, some do not. Yields of field peas, flax, and sunflowers have been equal to or exceeded yields common in Western areas of the continent. Chickpeas and lentils show potential but spatial management practices must be altered to compensate for the higher moisture and humidity levels in the Northeast. This project will use information, experience, and field observations derived from these past experiments in an attempt to fine tune best management practices for producing pulse and oilseed crops in the Northeast.
This project will utilize both research and farm scale experiments along with educational workshops in an attempt to determine if manipulating the aforementioned management practices are an effective means of increasing the overall success of pulse and oilseed crops in the Northeast.
20 Northeast potato growers will integrate pulse or oilseed crops into their rotations for the first time on a total of 600 acres, leading to an average increase of $450 in gross revenue per acre. Depending on crop selection and market conditions net revenue per acre could increase by $200.
Pulse and oilseed crops can be successfully integrated into potato and small grain crop rotations in Maine and the Northeast using spatial and fertility management to optimize yields and reduce standability and disease challenges resulting in increased revenue and reduced environmental impacts.
Experimental design will be a strip trial using randomized complete block with each treatment replicated 3 times. Pulses and oilseeds must be planted in strips to facilitate the use of a farm scale sprayer. Research plot treatment size will measure 6 feet wide by 25 feet long (150 square feet). Treatment applications will include a control, 2 seeding rates, and 2 row spacing configurations for a total of 54 individual plots.
Treatments will consist of 3 pulse crops (field peas, lentils, and chickpeas or faba beans) and 3 oilseed crops (flax, sunflowers, and soybeans). The control treatment will be designed using North Central states and provincial management recommendations. Research from 2016 at Aroostook Farm observed plant density of lentils and chickpeas to be too high using the control recommendations so reductions in in row seeding rate and increase in row spacing will be evaluated.
Data collected will include yield, a visual ranking of disease incidence, a visual ranking of lodging incidence, and a measurement of loss at harvest due to lodging or inability of equipment to collect crop material. Collected samples will be cleaned using a Clipper Office Tester grain cleaner and yields will be corrected to acceptable storage moisture levels. A Wintersteiger Nursery Master Combine will be used to harvest the research size plots. Research plots will be planted using a 3 point hitch cone seeder with a 6.5 inch row spacing. Farm scale plots will be planted, sprayed, and harvested using equipment owned by the farmer. Samples will be cleaned using farmer owned equipment. Collected data will be statistically analyzed using analysis of variance method and Systat software.
600-800 potato and grain growers, livestock producers, and regional market outlets throughout Maine will be sent emails as notification and advertisement for the project. Industry groups in other New England states will also be sent email advertisements to forward on to their members. Those who respond to the initial email will receive a survey used to gather information regarding level of interest, current knowledge, learning needs assessment, and willingness to participate in the project. The estimated 115 survey respondents mentioned in the “Milestones for beneficiary learning” section will be invited to a winter workshop where they will be presented with a more detailed description of the goals and anticipated outcomes of the project as well as information, observations, and results from pulse and oilseed research conducted in Maine from 2013-2016. Winter workshops will host experienced guest speakers from the pulse and oilseed production, marketing, and research industries.
Beneficiaries will be educated in Northeast pulse and oilseed production using a combination of email correspondence, workshop/winter meeting learning, and research and farm scale field demonstrations. Email will be used to communicate project updates, conduct surveys, and keep growers abreast on national, continental, and global issues and opportunities in the pulse and oilseed industries. Winter meetings and workshops will be used to educate participants, host guest speakers and experts from industry, and introduce growers to potential marketing outlets. Plot and farm scale demonstrations and field days will provide growers with the hands on experience often necessary to completely understand overall production methods and challenges.
The educational program will include the following topics:
- Pulse and oilseed crop choices. How to distinguish which is right for your farming operation. Rotational benefit and risk considerations.
- Management recommendations (soil types, pH, fertility requirements, equipment selection, pest control, seeding dates and rates, what to expect at harvest, etc.)
- Potential marketing outlets for different species. Quality parameters and how they differ between seed, food, and feed, storage management considerations, and potential for adding value on the farm.
The project team will support cooperating growers by providing informational materials and one on one technical assistance with field and species selection, plot and treatment layout, equipment calibration, fertility and pest control options and recommendations, and harvest and storage planning and management. The project team will also provide assistance with data collection, field observations, and yield calculations. Data will be compiled from both plot trials as well as on farm demonstration sites in a shared file that project participants will be able to access electronically.
450 potato and grain growers, livestock producers, and regional marketing outlets will receive an email containing background information and a factsheet as notification of the Developing Best Management Practices for Pulse and Oilseed Crops in the Northeast project by October 31, 2017. Recipients who respond to the email will be sent a survey to gauge their interest in participating in the project by November 30, 2017.
Announcement of project and factsheet were emailed to the Maine Potato Board grower list consisting of approximately 300 people.
Announcement of project and factsheet were sent to website manager to be included on the Maine Potato Board’s website.
Announcement and factsheet were emailed to agricultural service provider companies, dairy industry groups, beef industry groups, pork industry groups, and University of Maine Cooperative Extension faculty for distribution.
By December 31, 2017, 100 crop growers, 5 livestock producers, and 10 marketing outlets return the survey and agree to participate in the educational portion of the project. 2 growers agree to host on farm demonstration trials.
The 115 participants who returned the survey are invited to attend a winter workshop where they will be updated on project details, plans for the upcoming growing season, and view presentations from experts in the pulse and oilseed industries. Workshops will be held in February or March of 2018. Of the 115 invitees, 85 will attend.
By June of 2018, pulse and oilseed crops are planted in research plots and on 2 collaborating growers’ farms.
85 participants attend an August 2018 field day to view plot trials. Attendance will be verified by sign in sheet
Data collected from 2018 plot and cooperating grower trials is presented at multiple winter agricultural meetings throughout New England where 600 attendees including farmers and industry professionals will learn about project progress. These meetings will be held from January through April of 2019.
Progress reports are sent to the 85 initial workshop participants by March of 2019 in order to disseminate information and attract additional participants.
By May 2019, the 2 initial collaborating growers increase pulse and oilseed acreage and 4 additional growers begin to produce pulse and/or oilseed crops.
By May 31, 2020, 20 growers dedicate acreage to pulse and/or oilseed crops due to the level of information they received from educational and field demonstration components of this project. Verification of the number of growers adopting these crops will be through documented personal communication (i.e. emails and/or phone calls).