The Roundup -

Pulse Crop Farming Proves Rewarding for Girard Area Family


October 24, 2018 | View PDF

Ron and two-year old grandson Rory Kopp watch this year's pulse crop harvest.

Ryan Kopp and his father, Ron, have found success farming pulse crops on the family farm.

Ron's parents grew up in the Girard area, and Ron returned in 1981 to farm with Bill Lewis. Ryan followed suit, recently reducing his hours as a Civil Engineer at Interstate Engineering to spend more time on the farm.

The family farms pulse crops- dry, edible legumes that are generally high in protein. These include chickpeas, peas, lentils and beans. This growing season, the Kopp's planted yellow peas and chickpeas.

There are many benefits of pulse crop farming, according to Ryan. "One of the benefits of pulse crops is that you can spray for grass. If you have a lot of grass in the field, you can spray for it in-crop and the land can remain productive. Pulse crops also have the ability to put nitrogen into the ground and reduce fertilizer costs. With wheat, you have to apply a lot more fertilizer. They are also used to break up the wheat disease cycle," he explained.

Pulse crops require more maintenance than the typical dryland wheat crop, as they are more prone to diseases, and it is difficult to control weeds in the field. "To control weeds, we're going to use burn-down spraying. We'll spray in the fall after the crop is harvested, and spray again in spring. Then we spray in-crop for grass," Ryan explained. "With chickpeas, you have to spray at least once and up to 4-5 times for ascochyta as well."

Because pulse crop plants are shorter in height than a typical wheat crop, the Kopp's use a roller after seeding to avoid harvest-time mishaps. "We push all the rocks and the furrows down, so at harvest time we aren't running rocks through the combine. That could be costly," he said. "We're switching to a flex header, so the header flexes when it's close to the ground so you don't dig in the dirt." The Kopp's also use a conveyor auger during harvest, as a standard auger will crack and devalue the pulse crop. "If they're split in half, they aren't as valuable," he explained.

Though Ryan admits "there is more input cost and probably more risk" in pulse crop farming, "historically, the price of pulse crops is better than that of wheat. If you get a good chickpea crop and you don't have to spray a lot for disease, you can do really well," he said.

The price of the crops is largely driven by the market, and this year is especially affected by international tariffs. "Chickpeas are worth about half of what they were last year. A lot of that has to do with tariffs. India has a tariff on US pulse crops," he said. The yellow pea market, he said, hasn't been good for two years. "We're not going to plant them next year. Chickpeas are still profitable though. What the market is currently and where it is going is a big factor in what you plan to plant next year," Ryan said. He credits crop diversification to evening out the profit margin in the face of tariffs and low market values.

Pulse crops are used for everything from making hummus from chickpeas or yellow pea flour used to made traditional Indian bread products. This year, Ryan said, "We hauled some yellow peas that were sent to London. They put them outside of town to draw the pigeons out of town."

Ryan enjoys taking his two-year old son, Rory, on the farm with him. "He goes everywhere I go. His favorite word is 'tractor'," he said. Ryan, his wife Tessa, and Rory live in the Girard area as do Ron and his wife Peggy.


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