Canola acres are down significantly across the prairies, the full extent of which will be confirmed by Stats Canada shortly. Where did those acres go? Into some traditional crop choices but also into crops like lentils, peas, and faba beans, depending on what province you might be looking at.

According to Dan Risula, provincial specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture Crops and Irrigation Branch lentil acres are up significantly and pea acres are down in his province. “Pea acres are down primarily because farmers are experiencing significant problems with root rot of peas,” he explains. “Lentils presented an attractive alternative, and in some areas so did faba beans.”

Peas have been a popular crop choice in Saskatchewan for many years; however, five years of wet growing seasons have led to serious root rot issues. “Lentils can be impacted by root rot as well,” says Risula. “However, it seems not to be as widespread or as noticeable as in peas in the last couple of years.”

Lentils are grown in an arc stretching from south east of Regina up to the Eston/Kindersley area. “Acres drop a bit as you get past Kindersley approaching the Alberta border,” he says. “This is a reflection of the increased use of chemfallow experienced in those areas.”

The season so far is looking good for lentils. “We could definitely use some rain right about now,” says Risula. “The crop is just sitting there not growing very much. If we don’t get moisture soon, yields are going to be negatively impacted.”

Lentil prices have been holding up very well despite the increase in acres. If this crop comes off with good quality, farmers will be able to see decent returns as a result.

“Not much precipitation has fallen this year so far,” says Risula. “Growers might have to be prepared to deal with more insect related issues in the crop and the most prevalent issue could be grassphoppers. Grasshoppers like to feed on the flowers and pods of lentils, in particular, and in that way, they directly affect yield. Generally, if grasshoppers feed on the leafy material, they may not impact yield as much.”

Risula also notes that while it is a dry year that could change. Two more common diseases to watch for include ascochyta and anthracnose.

“If growers are pushing rotations, sclerotinia could be an issue,” says Risula. “However, we’d need a lot more moisture for that to happen.”

Physiological symptoms related to environmental stresses, such as a lack of nutrients or roots unable to get down to where the nutrients are can show up as a yellow/pale green discolouration, which can be mistaken for disease. “If we do get moisture soon, we might see these physiological symptoms,” says Risula. “The crop is sitting just waiting for that moisture. If it comes, it will jump really fast, maybe faster than its ability to take up enough nutrients. Generally, it will recover from this in a few days.”

Risula stresses the importance of diagnosing the problem before rushing in with an application of any kind. If growers are unsure of the issue, samples can be sent in for analysis to the Crop Protection Lab or check with your local agronomist.