Lentils

Lazer Ent. Inc. uses lentils as an important rotation crop rotation due to it's nitrogen fixing capabilities.  Additionally, prices over the past years have been favourable.  Even off- grade lentils are a useful supplement to animal feed.

Lentil is the oldest pulse crop with remains found alongside human habitation up to 13,000 years BC. Its domestication is equally old and was probably one of the earliest crops domesticated in the Old World. It is mainly grown in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Egypt, Greece, Italy, countries in the Mediterranean region and North America. It is also being cultivated in the Atlantic coast of Spain and Morocco. The crop has a high significance in cereal-based systems because of its nitrogen fixing ability, its high protein seeds for human diet and its straw for animal feed. It is widely used in a range of dishes and reputed to have many uses in traditional medicine.

Specialty crops have been cited as means to diversify crop portfolios on the prairies. Lentils, a specialty crop, have high variability in yields and prices but are relatively uncorrelated with the yields and prices of other traditional Saskatchewan crops. In addition, yields and prices of lentils may be negatively correlated. These attributes have important but offsetting effects in crop portfolio selection.

Lentil is a protein/calorie crop. Protein content ranges from 22 to 35%, but the nutritional value is low because lentil is deficient in the amino acids methionine and cystine. Lentil is an excellent supplement to cereal grain diets because of its good protein/carbohydrate content. It is used in soups, stews, casseroles and salad dishes. Sometimes they are difficult to cook because of the hard seed coat which results from excessively dry production conditions.

Lentils which fail to meet food grade standards (graded #3 or below) can be used as livestock feed because of their high protein content and lack of digestive inhibitors. Lentil can be used as a green manure crop and one particular Canadian variety, Indianhead, provides a large amount of fixed nitrogen (estimated to be 20 lb/acre).

Climate:

Lentil is adapted to cool growing conditions, and the young plants are tolerant of spring frosts. This allows for early spring planting dates. Lentils have been grown extensively in the semi-arid parts of the world, where they have slightly lower yields, but good seed quality. High humidity and excessive rainfall during the season encourages vegetative growth, which prevents good yield and can reduce seed quality. Ten to twelve inches of annual rainfall will produce high yields of good quality seed. Excessive drought and/or high temperatures during the flowering and pod-fill period also reduce yields.

The price of lentil has varied widely in recent years, ranging from $.15 to $.35/lb. This is a direct reflection of the volatile nature of world prices for this commodity. With favourable prices, lentil has provided a very attractive alternative crop for good producers. Seed damage, presence of foreign material and high moisture content will reduce the grade of lentil and result in a lower price. As with other specialty crops, growers should always locate markets and delivery points and determine a suitable price before planting a new crop.

Lentil Production and Current Situation:

Lentils and or beans are important in the crop rotation as the legume fixes about 2 pounds of N per acre and works best in a 3-4 year rotation. Rotation is complicated, but sensible and improves yields and soil nutrition. The biomass provides good ground cover protection and is excellent fodder for the soil. Legumes in the rotation can be used to increase the available soil nitrogen. Symbiotic nitrogen-fixing bacteria called rhizobia form nodules on the roots of legume plants and convert or fix atmospheric nitrogen to organic nitrogen. The amount of nitrogen fixed varies with species, available soil nitrogen, and many other factors. Fixed nitrogen not removed from the land by harvest becomes available to succeeding crops as the legume tissues undergo microbial decomposition. When the legume crop is seeded, Lazer applies rhizobia inoculum to ensure the most productive commercial strains are available to form nodules and that inoculating bacteria are always present. Even though indigenous bacteria may be present in the soil, research shows improved commercial strains of rhizobia have more capacity to fix nitrogen.

The primary opportunity viewed on lentils is more direct marketing to high use areas, finding package houses in Turkey and Iran, while also looking at India and Pakistan, who are the major users of Lentils in the world.