Pulses are a good option for growers as fertilizer prices skyrocket

The area of ​​peas and beans may increase this season due to the sharp rise in nitrogen fertilizer prices and the strong demand for these pulses in domestic and export markets.

These legume crops fix their own nitrogen from the atmosphere, so they don’t need nitrogen fertilizer. This may prove attractive to farmers given that nitrogen prices have increased by more than 50% in the past four months.

See also: Guide to growing a successful spring bean crop

Bean area in England for the 2021 crop increased slightly by 3.4% to 185,000 ha, and peas showed a larger increase of 18.1% to 60,000 ha. Industry experts believe a further rise is likely, aided by the good prices of these pulses.

The vast majority of UK pulses are grown in England, and their rotational advantages and low cost of growing may help encourage growers to increase drilling for the 2022 harvest.

Roger Vickers, chief executive of the Processors and Growers Research Organization (PGRO), says that if nitrogen fertilizers get really expensive in the long run, it could make pulses more attractive.

“The area of ​​peas and beans could increase a bit, and there is clearly room for an increase, as they represent only 4 to 5% of the total arable area,” he said. Farmers Weekly.

Residual nitrogen

Mr Vickers adds that peas and beans help soil fertility and leave residual nitrogen in the soil for a subsequent crop, so these are crops that can easily fit into a more resilient farming system.

With good yields from last summer’s harvest, high prices and many farmers looking to expand their rotations, pulses may well become more attractive to growers.

Peas and beans also have the potential to reduce imports of other protein crops such as soybeans, and may well fit into new environmentally focused agricultural subsidy programs as they are low-input crops, in particular. especially in terms of nitrogen fertilizers.

Although the new environmental land management program, which will replace the basic payment program, does not specifically mention the cultivation of pulses, experts say the program’s focus on soil health means that pulses could well to be favored.

Good prices for beans

Crop experts add that beans have more potential for area increase than peas because of their greater versatility – they can be used for a range of markets, including human consumption, animal feed, fish feed and exports. About 60-65% of the bean crop is sown in the spring, with the remainder sown in the fall.

This versatility has helped feed bean prices stay high, currently at £ 230-235 / t, with a premium of £ 20 / t for human consumption raising prices up to £ 255 / t. Feed bean prices for the 2022 crop are estimated at £ 210-215 / t.

On the human consumption side, the quality of locally grown beans from the 2021 harvest is significantly better than the last three years, with shiny, clean and well colored beans. Many samples also exhibited bruchid damage levels below 10%.

High demand for beans

With a poor harvest in the Baltic States’ main bean export markets, good demand for British beans in North African markets is expected to be made into falafel.

Andy Bury, UK pulses manager at Frontier business and agronomic group, says a good harvest this summer, high demand, high nitrogen prices and a lack of supply could encourage farmers to grow more legumes.

“With better yields and better quality, and prices that hold up, farmers will have more confidence in growing peas and beans,” he says.

“There will probably be a little less nitrogen used this season. Spring crops could increase in area and within them, legume crops are likely to increase, ”he says.

Among the major pulse producing and exporting countries, the Baltic States and France have seen their yields decline this year, boosting demand for UK production and, although another large harvest is expected in Australia later this year , it will probably be at a lower level than in 2020.

Fertilizing plants

Nitrogen fertilizer prices rose sharply after the only two UK ammonium nitrate fertilizer factories at Billingham in Teesside and Ince in Cheshire, owned by US fertilizer maker CF Industries, shut down due to high costs Energy.

Although Billingham has now reopened with help from the UK government to tackle high energy costs, both supply around 40% of the total UK fertilizer market, so some shortages are likely to continue.

The Billingham plant has reopened to help alleviate the shortage of one of its by-products, carbon dioxide, which is essential for sectors such as food packaging and the production of soft drinks.

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