Episode 4

Published on:

19th Mar 2024

Nitrogen Fixation and Field Pea Production in South Dakota with Dr. Christopher Graham

Dr. Chris Graham is an associate professor at South Dakota State University. He’s also the manager of the West River Research Farm near Sturgis, South Dakota. At that facility they focus a lot on regenerative agriculture, including doing a lot of work with peas and other pulses to extend crop rotations in that semi-arid region in the western part of the state. Graham shares about pulse production in South Dakota, focusing mostly on field peas. He also shares some of the complexities of nitrogen fixation, including what it might look like to have farm-specific microbial inoculant mixes in the future. 

“When you look at the growth of wheat, generally the yield is set first and then the protein is made later in its life cycle. And so we often see peas, obviously they're harvested and they start to decay, and that slow decay releases nitrogen  later in the wheat growing season. And so we often see a protein bump with wheat following peas.” - Dr. Chris Graham

While there isn’t a lot of acreage in pulses in South Dakota yet, Graham calls field peas the “nickel slots” of the pulses. In other words, a great place to start incorporating them into a rotation with a low barrier to entry. He highlights that your soil nitrogen content will likely not increase but your input needs may decrease when pulses are used.

“It's still nitrogen that you didn't have to apply and it's also nitrogen that the plant did not necessarily take up from the soil. And so it's conserving some of that nitrogen that's being made available just on that baseline level.  ” - Dr. Chris Graham

This Week on Growing Pulse Crops:

  • Meet Dr. Chris Graham, an associate professor at South Dakota State University and the manager of the West River Research Farm near Sturgis, South Dakota
  • Explore the potential use of pulse crops in rotations in South Dakota
  • Discover the niche pulses can fill in rotation as a broadleaf crop capable of nitrogen fixation

Visit Dr. Graham’s webpage here.

Growing Pulse Crops is produced by Dr. Audrey Kalil and hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.

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About the Podcast

Growing Pulse Crops
The science and business of farming field peas, chickpeas, and lentils
This show features the latest in research, agronomy, and economics of pulse crops (peas, chickpeas, lentils, etc.).

Demand for these nutrient-dense, high-protein foods continues to grow. There is also interest from farmers to include more pulses into diverse rotations for benefits like nitrogen fixation and soil health.

But the industry continues to face challenges, and we are eager to address these head on. So if you’re a pulse grower or in any way interested in these important crops, hit subscribe and stay tuned for future episodes. We’ll be back with plenty of information about challenges pulse farmers are facing throughout the U.S. and what solutions are working.

Brought to you by the Pulse Crops Working Group with support from the North Central IPM Center and USDA NIFA.

About your host

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Tim Hammerich

I share stories about agriculture, agtech, and agribusiness on podcasts and radio.