Peas please

Currently, Montana ranks number one in the production of field peas in the nation, producing 48 percent nationally,” said Dr. Gadi V.P. Reddy, entomologist/ecologist in the Entomology/Ecology Program Unit, at Western Triangle Ag Research Center. “At WTARC, we have been developing management strategies for pulse crop insect pests, among other research.”

CONRAD, Mont. – Pulse acreage in Montana, even in the face of dropping prices, continues to remain steady.

Pulse crops have become part an important part of the producers’ rotation, with its many soil benefits, and adding pulse crops to the rotation increases plant diversity.

“Currently, Montana ranks number one in the production of field peas in the nation, producing 48 percent nationally,” said Dr. Gadi V.P. Reddy, entomologist/ecologist in the Entomology/Ecology Program Unit, at Western Triangle Ag Research Center. “At WTARC, we have been developing management strategies for pulse crop insect pests, among other research.”

Montana State University pulse breeder for the past two years, Kevin McPhee, released a new pea variety last year that fits with Montana’s varying climates and has an improved disease package. McPhee is also working on chickpea and lentil varieties for the state’s pulse growers as well.

“Montana growers’ interest in planting pulse crops has increased immensely in the recent years because of less profitable income from cereal crops,” Reddy said. “In the past five years, pulse crops such as lentil, pea and chickpea have increased in growing acreage from 600,209 acres to 1.21 million acres in Montana.”

Along with increased pulse acreage, there has been strong pressure from pulse growers for methods to manage several insect pests that can cause yield losses.

Reddy was awarded $106,662 by the Montana Specialty Crop Block Grant, USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture last year to do just that - develop sustainable management strategies for pulse crops insect pests in Montana.

“A decade ago, when Montana growers began to raise pulse crops, there were only minor pest problems,” Reddy said. “Now, several insect pests have been infesting pulse crop fields at economic damage levels.”

The insect pests that are present in pulse crops include: pea leaf weevil, pea aphid, lygus bug, armyworm, cutworm, wireworms, grasshopper, pea weevil and leaf hoppers.

“Of these, pea leaf weevil, pea aphid and lygus bug are currently causing the most economic damages to pulse crops across Montana,” he added.

For many years, WTARC and Reddy’s team have focused on pulse crop and other crop insect pest management strategies.

With part of the grant, Reddy has been organizing a workshop for professionals, that will bring in speakers from Canada and the U.S. to present cereal, canola and pulse crop insect and management strategies. Some of the topics will include pheromones,

Many Extension agents in counties across the state, along with other educators, have been invited to the workshop. They will take what they learn back to the producers in their area. In this way, every pulse grower and other growers in the state can hopefully be reached.

Growers and Extension agents have requested help on the following issues: 1) suitable pea varieties with higher yields potential and improved resistant towards pest damage; 2) appropriate synthetic and biopesticide products for use; and 3) develop economic threshold level for treatment application.

For example, Montana pea growers may spray insecticides at least once or twice during the spring growing season, and in addition, use neonicotinoid insecticide-treated seeds to avoid leaf and root damages inflicted by pea leaf weevil adults and larvae.

“The complete reliance on insecticide-based pest management may raise the risk of pea leaf weevil populations developing resistance, as well as their potential negative impacts on the environment and non-target organisms,” Reddy said.

Other countries have reported the failure to control pea leaf weevil by insecticide (pyrethroid) sprays, and the weevil adults were found to develop resistance to this insecticide group.

“Similar situations may happen in Montana pulse production systems, and could influence the expanding Montana Pulse Industry,” Reddy said.

All those issues, and more, will be a part of the workshop.

For more information about the pulse management project, please contact Dr. Reddy at 406-278-7707 or by reddy@montana.edu.