Can intercropping pulses with other crops help with problems like disease pressure? That's what we explore on this episode.
Farmer driven research at the Southeast Research Farm in Saskatchewan is a non-profit gift to farmers. Lana Shaw is the Research Manager there and has become the resident expert on intercropping specifically with flax and chickpeas.
“Adding a small amount of flax to chickpeas, we’ve found in small plot trials and farmer fields and in producer surveys, that it reduces the leaf disease, the ascochyta. ” - Lana Shaw
This would be an adjunctive measure to the routine rotations and seed treatments already employed by pulse farmers. An added benefit Lana has also found is that intercropping also increases the chickpea quality and helps to avoid loss of yield with necessary color sorting. Of course the battle with ascochyta is a perpetual fight for pulse crop growers and the potential for better control is very exciting.
“What the surveys have found was that the farmers were getting less disease with one application on intercrops than the farmers that were spraying twice on their monocrop.” - Lana Shaw
Lana finds that the “knowledge gap” for intercropping is a greater obstacle than any financial burden imposed by the flax. Using different seed at different rates and harvesting different crops at the same time present some challenges for equipment management. If intercropping is used there are modifications used during harvest to accommodate both crops. Lana refers you to farmers who have accomplished harvesting for the exact adjustments that need to be made.
Dr. Michelle Hubbard is a Pulse Pathologist at Agriculture and AgriFood Canada corroborates Lana’s findings. It’s possible the flax has been so successful in limiting ascochyta by limiting the moisture levels in the canopy making it more difficult for the fungi to grow as quickly. The other possibility is that the flax represents a physical barrier reducing the amount of spread between the chickpea plants. Another hypothesis is that more diversity alongside the chickpea plants results in activating a defense mechanism for the plants. Essentially, research is ongoing as to what is directly causing the benefit but it is widely accepted that it helps regardless of the mechanism of action.
This Week on Growing Pulse Crops:
Meet Lana Shaw and discover the exciting findings her research has proven in regards to ascochyta
Explore the advantages and pitfalls to intercropping and how both can be best managed
Meet Dr. Michelle Hubbard who confirms Lana’s findings and also explains they running hypothesis as to the mechanism causing the success
Dr. Hubbard also shares current research being taken to evaluate anthracnose and its potential treatments