Montana pulse growers are well into another production year with crops in most areas of the state doing well. While total acreage is down from 2017, USDA reported in June that Montana has 301,000 acres of chickpeas, 530,000 acres of lentils, and 415,000 acres of dry peas this year. Soon it will be time to desiccate those crops in preparation for harvest.
Pulse desiccation is a critical harvest management tool which aids in a timely harvest by drying down the crop and leveling out maturity across a field. It also helps dry down the inevitable broadleaf weeds found in pulse crops. However, improper desiccant application and timing has the potential to severely impact our pulse markets.

Each country establishes a Maximum Residue Limit, or MRL, to set the upper limits of residue allowed on imported crops. MRLs can vary by county, by commodity, and by active ingredient. For example, paraquat is a commonly used desiccant in the US. The MRL for paraquat is 0.05mg/kg for pulses in China, but only 0.02mg/kg in the EU. In addition residue testing has become extremely sophisticated, with current methods able to identify over 260 pesticide residues at levels well below 1 part-per-billion (ppb). As farmers, we have the collective responsibility to ensure our products meet these strict conditions. If just one sample exceeds MRL limits, it can not only jeopardize that shipment but future shipments as well.The US Dry Pea & Lentil Council recently reported a shipment of lentils destined for Japan exceeded MRLs. Once an MRL violation is detected, Japan requires clean shipments for at least one year. Any further violations could completely shut down that market opportunity.

So how do we ensure we meet MRL requirements? The answer is right there in our hands: the label. Read the label, understand the label, follow the label. Do not exceed the application rates. Prevent drift so that neighboring crops don’t exceed application rates. Make sure to meet the minimum water requirements. And most importantly, wait the prescribed number of days stated in the preharvest interval before harvesting. It’s easy to feel rushed to get that crop off of the field but cutting short on the label requirements by even just one day could jeopardize an entire pulse market for ourselves and all of our neighbors. Montana pulse growers produce some of the highest-quality products in the world. Let’s uphold that tradition. Slow down, follow the label, and best of luck with your pulse harvest!