MOSCOW, Idaho — Production of pulse crops — lentils, dry peas and chickpeas — in Idaho was a mixed bag this year.
Production of lentils, Austrian winter peas and dry edible peas plummeted in 2017, the result of fewer acres and much lower yields. Chickpea acreage, however, continued to soar this year, although yields are also expected to be lower.
An extremely wet spring plagued the state’s main pulse-growing region in North Idaho this year and that was followed by a string of 80 straight days with no rainfall and unusually high temperatures, farmers and industry leaders said.
The lengthy dry spell “definitely affected yields, but overall quality this year remained pretty good,” said Dirk Hammond, administrative services manager for George F. Brocke and Sons, a processor of pulse crops in Kendrick.
Idaho pulse crops enjoyed yield records last year, “but this year is quite a bit different story,” said Tim McGreevy, executive director of the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council, which is headquartered in Moscow. “The pulses got hit hard with lower yields than last year.”
According to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, lentil yields averaged 900 pounds an acre in Idaho this year, down from 1,550 last year, dry edible pea yields averaged 1,700 pounds an acre, down from 2,500 last year, and Austrian winter pea yields averaged 900 pounds, down from 1,800.
Chickpea yields for 2017 have not been released yet but they are also expected to be down.
Troy farmer Pat Smith planted chickpeas and lentils this year and “both of those crops were down on yields, he said. “We had too much rain at the beginning of the season and after that, we didn’t get any rain. The crop definitely felt the toll of Mother Nature.”
Smith said his chickpeas yielded between 900 and 1,000 pounds an acre this year, down from 1,800-1,900 last year.
Robert Blair, who farms near Kendrick, said he couldn’t get any pulse acres planted this year because of heavy spring rains.
“It was too wet,” he said. “We just couldn’t get in the field.”
Acreage for lentils, Austrian winter peas and dry edible peas in Idaho were all down this year, according to NASS, but chickpea acres continued their steep climb.
Chickpea acreage in Idaho totaled 118,000 this year, up from 92,000 acres in 2016 and 70,000 acres in 2015.
Lentil acres fell from 37,000 in 2016 to 35,000 this year, dry edible pea acres fell from 28,000 to 24,000 and Austrian winter pea acreage plummeted from 17,000 to 4,000.
Austrian winter pea prices have fallen off significantly and dry edible pea prices have been stagnant, McGreevy said.
The lentil market is strong, “but acreage was down a little bit in Idaho just because (chickpea prices and acreage) are so strong,” McGreevy said. “It’s all about chickpeas.”