Pulses merit closer inspection for growers

Growers who discard pulses from their cropping plans because of perceived low prices could be missing out on useful bottom-line benefits.

That was the message from last week’s launch of the new PGRO/NIAB Recommended Lists for 2007.

With the UK pea area down by more than half in six years, and after a tricky drought-hit season with bruchid beetle in beans particularly troublesome, pulse specialists are keen forgrowers not to forget the advantages of such crops.


With ascochyta-prone Target becoming outclassed, all four remaining recommended winter beans are top-rated (9) for resistance to the disease.

This means there are good prospects that ascochyta should soon decline within rotations, said NIAB’s Simon Kightley.

There was no shortage of outlets, said the PGRO’s Anthony Biddle.”It’s a very under-supplied market.” And growers who are budgeting on getting only £80/t could be misleading themselves, he suggested.”We’re now seeing a lot of premium prices.”

Recommended lists

Nearly all the Recommended Lists varieties could attract premiums as long as crop quality was acceptable, said Phil Rix of Lincolnshire-based merchant Dunns.

“All the peas, and all the spring beans, with the exception of Hobbit [spring bean], can be grown for added-value markets.”

Marrowfat peas, inherently lower-yielding than other types, could command premiums of £30-80/t over the base animal feed price, Mr Rix added.

The UK needed 70,000-80,000t a year of large blue micronising types, mainly for pet foods, where the premium could be up to £40/t, provided the quality was right, he said.”It’s surprising how many domestic rabbits are out there, but the pea quality and colour has to be right. It’s almost a case of looks being more important than the nutritional value.”


To highlight the strengths of pulses and their profit opportunities in an under-supplied market, six PGRO/Syngenta regional meetings are scheduled:

  • Peterborough 8 January
  • York 9 January
  • Lincoln 10 January
  • Bury St Edmunds 16 January
  • Andover 22 January
  • Telford 23 January

Free to applicants on a first-come first-served basis, they run from 4-6.30pm. To register, fax 01223 281275 or email cropmarketing.uk@syngenta.com


For good, bright samples of white (yellow) varieties, the premium was £10-20/t, he said.For small blues for processing, mostly grown on buy-back contracts, growers could expect up to £40/t over feed.

Good markets for spring beans to the Middle East had been built up, with Egypt alone needing 1000t a day, he noted.

The UK’s main competitors were Canada (with peas) and Australia (with beans). But drought Down Under was having an impact on bean supplies, and English crops had a unique advantage.

“When anyone wants the best quality products they look to England,” said Mr Rix.

Dr Biddle pointed out there were pulse rotational options for all types of land – from heavy to light.”They have a low fertiliser requirement and leave residual N. And they provide an excellent opportunity for weed control with Roundup before sowing. It’s getting increasingly expensive to control blackgrass in cereals.”

Pulses still qualified for the EU protein crop payment of about £35/ha, he added.


Five new pea varieties have been added to the Recommended List for 2007, but only one new bean.

Mascara from Senova, the first of two white types, tops the yield rating on 111, which was 5% up on 2005 introduction Bilbo, said the PGRO’s Steve Belcher. “But it has quite long straw, which puts a question mark over its standing ability, which at 6 is only moderate. But it has medium to good resistance to downy mildew.”

Output from Dalgety’s Ragtime was a point behind Bilbo, but although it was slightly longer-strawed, it stood well, said Mr Belcher. Both new white types are earlier ripening than Bilbo and have marginally better downy mildew resistance.

Prophet and Paris, both from Nickerson/Advanta, are the new large blues. Both resist downy mildew well, rating 8. Prophet is slightly higher yielding, and stands well despite being rather taller.

“Paris does fall down a bit on seed size,” said Mr Belcher.

Genki from Daltons Seeds, the sole marrowfat addition, is not of the traditional square, dimpled shape, and market reaction is awaited.

It yields 3% more than Kahuna, stands very well (rated 8) and has the best downy mildew resistance among the marrowfats (rated 6).

The only new bean variety is a winter type – Arthur, from Wherry & Sons. It offered 3% more yield than Wizard and top ascochyta resistance, said NIAB’s Simon Kightley.

However, unlike Wizard, it has a black hilum, making it unsuitable for export. Its lodging resistance is not nearly as good, either.

But Mr Kightley thought it would be a useful option on lighter land where Wizard could “run out of steam” in dry seasons.

“Where lodging is less of a potential problem, growers can go for Arthur and still get high yield.”

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