Pulse intercrop shows promise in the Peace River Region

Lentil intercropped with faba bean or chickpea had higher total seed yield and LER (Land Equivalent Ratio) than monocrop lentil. Field pea intercrop with faba bean and chickpea produced smaller seed yield, LER and inconsistent results compared to monocrop field pea.

Intercropping has gained interest in the past few years as an agronomic practice to increase crop yield and improve agronomic and economic benefits. Because field pea and lentil tend to lodge near maturity, an intercrop with either faba bean or chickpea has been proposed to prevent lodging while improving harvestability and yield.

The objective of this study was to assess crop response and seed production when field pea and lentil were intercropped with faba bean or chickpea.

Small plot field trials were conducted over 3 years from 2015 to 2017 near Donnelly in the southeast Peace River Region of Alberta. Eight treatments were intercrops of lentil + faba bean, lentil + chickpea, field pea + faba bean, and field pea + chickpea with two different seeding rates, plus each crop grown as monocrop for comparison to the intercrops.

Monocrops were sown at 100% of their recommended seeding rates. In the intercrops, seeding rates were 75, 100, 50 and 75 % for lentil, field pea, faba bean and chickpea, respectively.  The recommended seeding rates targeted 8.8 plants/ft2 (88 plants/m2) for field pea, 13 plants/ft2 (130 plants/m2) for lentil, 4.5 plants/ft2 (45 plants/m2) for faba bean, and 5 plants/ft2 (50 plants/m2) for chickpea.

Crops were direct seeded into cereal stubble using a dual knife opener, which resulted in a paired seed row in intercrops that were 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) apart. Lentil and field pea were seeded 1 inch (2.5 cm) deep, and faba bean and chickpea 1.3 inches (3.4 cm) deep. Row spacing was 11 inches (28 cm). The crops were grown with typical agronomic practices.

Desiccation was conducted a few days after lentil and field pea maturity to allow most faba bean and chickpea seeds to mature.

Stand establishment, plant height, lodging and seed yield data were collected. For the intercrops, a LER greater than 1.0 indicates that there was a yield advantage for the intercrop over the monocrop. After harvest, seeds for the intercrops were separated and yield assessed for each crop.

Lentil more suited to intercropping

The 2015 growing season was abnormally dry. In 2016, dry conditions persisted until a few days after seeding, while 2017 had near the long term average rainfall.

Stand establishment was similar or slightly lower in the lentil and field pea monocrops compared to their intercrops. Faba bean and chickpea monocrops stand establishment was also similar or slightly lower than in the intercrops.

Lentil and field pea plant heights were similar in the monocrop and intercrop treatments. Faba bean was shorter in the intercrops in all three years, except being similar in the both 2016 field pea intercrops and the 75% field pea + 75% faba bean intercrop in 2017. Chickpea plant height was shorter in the intercrops in 2016 and 2017, but similar to monocrop in 2015.

Lodging was reduced in the lentil and field pea intercrops compared to the monocrops in 2016 and 2017. No lodging occurred in 2015, likely due to the shorter crops because of the dry conditions.

In 2015, the dry weather resulted in poor yields with very little difference in total seed yield and LER values between the intercrops and monocrops.

With adequate rains in 2016 and 2017, the lentil intercrops had greater seed total seed yield and LER than the monocrops. For example in 2017, lentil monocrop yielded 2083 lbs/ac (2340 kg/ha). This compared to the lentil 75% + faba bean 75% yield total of 4136 lbs/ac (4648 kg/ha) consisting of 1769 lbs/ac (1988 kg/ha) lentil + 2367 lbs/ac (2660 kg/ha) faba bean. This intercrop produced a total LER of 1.41.

Similarly in 2017, the 75% lentil/chickpea intercrop yielded 2044 lbs/ac (2297 kg/ha) lentil seed + 223 lbs/ac (251 kg/ha) chickpea seed for a total seed yield of 2268 lbs/ac (2548 kg/ha), and a total LER of 1.19.

Typically, yields were lower in the lentil and field pea intercrops with faba bean than with chickpea, because faba bean was more competitive than chickpea. The increase in total LER, though, was similar between faba bean and chickpea intercrops.

The reduction in seed yield of lentil and field pea was greater when seeded at 75% of recommended seeding rates compared to intercrops using 100% seeding rate. If the objective is to maximize seed yield of these two crops in an intercrop, the researchers recommend using the 100% seeding rate for lentil and field pea, and 50% for faba bean or chickpea.

Overall, the research found that there was a potential for improving total yield and LER from intercrops of lentil with faba bean or chickpea over a lentil monocrop. For field pea, the increases in total seed yield and LER were small and inconsistent, and indicate that field pea may not be suitable for intercropping in the Peace River region of Alberta.

Research was funded from the SARDA Ag Research funds.

Kabal Singh Gill & Darcy Boisvert. 2020. Performance of Field Pea and Lentil When Intercropped With Faba Bean and Chickpea in the Peace River Region of Alberta, Canada. Journal of Agricultural Science. Vol. 12 (No. 4). ISSN 1916-9752 E-ISSN 1916-9760. Open Access: https://doi.org/10.5539/jas.v12n4p1

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