Article

Specialty crops and biological alternatives on the rise in the ag industry

  - 11/2/2016

In a year where many agricultural farms and businesses are seeing tough prices and some undesirable frustrations, there’s a business in the heart of ND that has found ways to help you continue to thrive during the seemingly downward trends. Pulse USA, Inc. is a seed company based out of Bismarck, ND that markets field peas, lentils, faba beans, hard red spring wheats, forages and cover crops. The diversification of this company is helping farmers and ranchers to shine through the hard times all while benefiting each and every one of the farmers and ranchers.

In the fall and winter months of 2015 farmers began looking at their crop budgets and planning for what would lie ahead in 2016. Majority of crops didn’t look too promising to many farmers so an interest in field peas was on the rise. Field peas were a hot commodity in the fall of 2015 and processors couldn’t seem to get enough of them. The phones rang of the hook with farmers looking for pea seed to plant in 2016 and the acres expanded quite significantly. Farmers continue to pay close attention to the many benefits of growing pulse crops, specifically field peas and lentils, for some major reasons.

 

Pulse crops provide soil benefits by affixing nitrogen within their root nodules. If your decision to plant a pulse crop is based on the commodity itself, consider this: following a pulse crop nitrogen applications are either not required or are applied at lower rates. Therefore the planting of crop such as peas or lentils this year provides a reduced input cost and provides better per acre profitability the following year. This multi-year payoff from a pulse crop in your rotation reduces risk of investment in the alternate crop by returns on your commodity income, but the reduction in your future costs as well.

The domestic markets have been trending upward for pulse crops in the last few years. For the most part they have been a marketable and money making crop for growers in the Midwest. We have seen some very large price swings in the last 12 months with the lows being somewhat profitable. Processors have been expanding plants and capacity which is a good sign for participating farmers. AGT Foods just completed a 33,000 square foot $30,000,000 expansion in Minot, ND and plans to add another line expansion in 2017. The South Dakota Pulse Processors LLC is also nearing completion on their plant in Harrold, SD to start processing both yellow peas and red lentils.

 

A diversified crop rotation helps reduce risk both financially and environmentally. When we venture into monotypic agriculture the commodity we have grown as a store of value has a defined scope of marketing opportunities and prices associated with each. If we use hard red spring wheat as an example, at the end of the season and into the next year you have several elevators to choose from but the larger wheat market determines the value of your entire production and inventory. If you mix in other crops you are not dependent on one market performing well, you have the ability to sell into more than one commodity market and adjust the timing of those sale to stabilize income and take advantage of price movements in multiple markets.

The same is true on the environmental risk side. With a monotypic stand your entire production is vulnerable to a single disease or weather event. With diversity you gain some level of resilience in your operation such that if a disease or pest that targets one crop is prevalent this year and damages your production, in most cases it will not target your alternate (depending on the threat and the specific crops) and you will still get production from a portion of your hard work. Scientist have long recognized that diversified plantings have a higher probability of success than monocultures. These concepts hold true for marketable commodities, environmental crop risks, and that which most people are familiar with investment portfolios – a farm is an investment portfolio.

Pulse USA has strived to bring the best genetics to farmers in the upper Midwest. They source and test new varieties from Europe, New Zeeland, Canada, North and South America. It is very important to folks at Pulse USA to test these new varieties in our region for up to five years across ten plus locations. They have the grower’s best interest in mind because they want nothing more than to see each farmer succeed with their products. From planting a cover crop for livestock feed to including a pulse crop in your crop rotation, the possibilities are endless with us. We will continue to provide cost effective cropping options to biologically maintain and enhance our environment, as we modernize in farming practices.

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