Pulse growing set for resurgence

Pea and bean growing is set for a comeback as cereal growers look for ways to reduce their fertiliser bills, Processors & Growers Research Organisation (PGRO) chief executive Salvador Potter has said.

He told Grower that, as prices of nitrogen escalate to double what they were this time last year, the appeal of pulses is becoming more apparent as these crops do not require nitrogen.

Peas and beans are nitrogen-fixing crops - they extract nitrogen from the atmosphere.

Potter said: "We had hundreds of growers coming to our stand at the Cereals show (in June) saying that they have not grown pulses for a number of years but, after a few years of tight wheat rotations combined with increasing input costs on top of yield issues, many of them are deciding to go back to pulses. So we are going to see a revival."

Another benefit of pulses is their residual nitrogen value - because the nitrogen residuals left in the soil by pulses can benefit subsequent crops.

Potter calculated that the residual value of fixed nitrogen per hectare to a following crop, with ammonium nitrate at £320 a tonne, is £37 for peas and £46 for beans.

He added that there is a large gap in the market for pulses products - estimating that the total UK deficit is around 1.03 million tonnes as a result of fewer people growing the crop in recent years.

Potter told Grower that the largest deficit is for feed beans, which have a deficit of 500,000 tonnes.

The deficit for beans for human consumption (those with a clean, white hilum and low Bruchid damage) is 270,000 tonnes, while demand for marrowfat peas is also considerable with a deficit of 77,000 tonnes.

Potter said: "There are some very good prices around for peas, particularly for micronising and for human consumption for export markets such as Egypt. And the margins are extremely attractive."

PGRO estimated that the gross margin for marrowfats is £871/ha - which is nearly as good as that of a first wheat crop at £906/ha, and considerably better than the second wheat crop margin of £612/ha.

Nickerson product manager Les Daubney added that spring beans will "lead the way" next season.

He said: "Spring beans now in the trials system show a possible 20 per cent yield improvement on current varieties.

"People are looking at ways to reduce their fertiliser bills. The simple answer is to put pulses in the ground."

He added: "There is also a shortage of pulses and the value of the crops has grown.

"There are some very, very good contracts out there on quality peas - so they look attractive from all sorts of angles."

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