20 | Advancing Seed in Alberta points that otherwise wouldn’t affect smaller seed.” In addition, Gregg points out that the genetic makeup of pulse seed — including factors such as seed coat thickness or elasticity, oil content and starch cellular structure — is another issue and can make it more susceptible to impact damage, especially depending on moisture content. What exactly does that mean for pulse growers here in Alberta? The simple answer is potentially less money in their pockets. Any seed damage can lead to a lower quality crop which in turn can lead to deductions and discounted prices of as much as 30 per cent, both domestically and internationally. “It’s very important for producers to try and minimize the amount of cracked seeds that they have and also splits,” says Nevin Rosaasen, a policy and program specialist for the Alberta Pulse Growers (APG). Potential Price Reductions “Splits and cracks … result in price reductions as dockage and they’re not getting paid for the whole seed or it results in quality downgrades. The price difference is always fluctuating. It’s similar to the protein market in wheat. If you have nice quality peas or beans you can usually negotiate a better price. If you have too many cracks in the seed coat you will be discounted.” Another concern is that cracked or damaged pulse seed can also mean more plant material finding its way into the seed, which can lead to an increased risk of disease such as mould or fungus. So, what can pulse growers do to prevent or mitigate damage to seed? Gregg says the most common piece of advice he offers to growers is to reduce exposure to any potentially damage- causing incidents, and limit their severity, whether its rotating mechanical parts, impact from high drops or just gravity acceleration. “In simple terms … avoid overhandling these types of crops. If you can put [the seed] through an auger once instead of twice or directly into the truck and skip the grain cart or different things like that Alberta Pulse Growers, in conjunction with Lakeland College Applied Research, now offers a Pulse Agronomy Field School. Photo courtesy of APG. “It’s very important for producers to try and minimize the amount of cracked seeds that they have and also splits.” — Nevin Rosaasen where you introduce the opportunity for damage to occur, do it,” he says. Rosaasen agrees and says that’s especially true for a pulse crop like peas. He recommends growers slow down the speed of any auger they might use and keep it covered with grain at the bottom to help minimize the amount of cracks caused to the seed. In fact, he says a growing number of farms are switching to conveyor systems to reduce the risk of damaging seed or grain. A Gentler Option “Many producers have moved to conveyor augers which are more costly but they use a conveyor belt system rather than a corkscrew auger which is the conventional way of moving grain. They’re more costly but they’re very gentle and they handle pulses very nicely,” he says. Another key factor to consider with pulse seed is moisture content, which can be something of a double-edged sword: too high a moisture level can lead to damage while too low a level can be equally problematic. “We don’t necessarily understand it that well but anecdotally we can see a difference in the amount of damage sustained by these crops just based on moisture content,” says Gregg. “There’s kind of a sweet spot in terms of