Lentil (Lens culinaris)
Lentil (Lens culinaris Medik.) may have been one of the first agricultural crops grown more than 8,500 years ago. Production of this cool season annual crop spread from the Near East to the Mediterranean area, Asia, Europe and finally the Western Hemisphere. It may have been introduced to the United States in the early 1900s. The crop has received little research attention to improve its yield and quality. It grows well in limited rainfall areas of the world.
Lentil is a pulse (grain legume) crop. In North America much of the acreage is in eastern Washington, northern Idaho, and western Canada where drier growing season conditions prevail. It has been grown in that area since the 1930s as a rotation crop with wheat. Most of the lentil production in the United States and Canada is exported, but domestic consumption is increasing.
Required climatic conditions for growing lentil can vary from place to place (across different growing regions). The lentils are panted in the winter and spring under low temperatures in the temperate climates. But the lentils are planted under relatively high temperatures in the subtropics at the end of the rainy season.
The lentil plants can be grown in almost all types of soil. But avoid saline, alkaline or waterlogged soil. The lentil plants are able to grow in various soil types from sand to clay loam. But they generally grow best in deep sandy loam soils with medium to good fertility. And the soil pH level around 7 is best for growing lentil.
For preparing the soil, till the soil perfectly and mix the organic fertilizers into it. But for commercial production, one deep ploughing is required followed by 3-4 cross harrowing. You should add any organic or chemical fertilizers during this stage. For commercial production, add 10-12 kg urea and 40-50 kg super phosphate per acre. And then level the soil perfectly.
There are many different varieties of lentils available to choose from. In India, some known and widely cultivated lentil varieties are Bombay 18, DPL 15, DPL 62, L 4632, K 75, LL 699, LL 931 and Pusa 4076. You can choose any breed above depending on it’s availability in your area.
Seed Rate and Sowing
- For small seeded : 40 – 45 kg/ha;
- For Bold seeded : 45 – 60 k g/ha;
- For Late sown condition : 50 – 60 kg/ha;
- For Utera cropping : 60 – 80 kg/ha seed is recommended.
Mid of the October to the first week of November is generally considered as best time for growing lentil.
Sowing should be done in rows 30 cm. apart and it should be sown at a lower depth (3 – 4 cm). This could be done either by using a Ferti-seed-drill or by seeding behind desi plough.
- Fungicide: Thirum (2 gm) + Carbendazim (1gm ) or Thirum @ 3 gm or Carbendazim @ 2.5 g per Kg. of seed;
- Insecticide: Chlorpyriphos 20 E.C. @8 ml./Kg. of seed;
- Culture: Rhizobium + PSB, one packet each for 10 kg seed
Red-legged earthmite (Halotydeus destructor) is a black-bodied mite with red legs; it damages seedlings as they emerge.
Cowpea aphid (Aphis craccivora). Moisture stressed crops are susceptible to aphid infestation, especially when the atmosphere is dry and when warm weather occurs in autumn and spring.
Lucerne flea (Sminthurus viridis) is a small (2.5 mm), wingless, light green hopping insect. It chews through leaves in layers resulting in “window-pane” like holes.
Native budworm (Helicoverpa punctigera). The caterpillar damages maturing seed in pods during the flowering and podding stage of plant growth.
Ascochyta blight (Ascochyta lentis) causes black lesions on the stem and the wilting of plants. Variety selection, seed treatment and fungicide sprays are important management practices.
Botrytis grey mould (Botrytis cinerea) is another serious disease in southern Australia. It attacks the base of the stem and the collar region of young plants, where a soft rot develops and then becomes covered with a fluffy grey mould, infected seed is white and chalky in appearance.
Phoma is a seed-borne infection that results in black-brown discolouration of the root near where the seed is attached. Blackening may spread up the root and cause lesions at the base of the stem. Black lesions may completely girdle the base of the stem and root where infection is severe.
Harvesting, threshing, storage
Crop become ready for harvest when leaves begin to fall, stem and pod turn brown or straw in colour and seeds are hard and rattle with 15% moisture inside them. Over ripening may lead to fall of pods as well as shattering and seed cracking if seed moisture fall below 10% due to delay in harvesting.
The crop should be allowed to dry for 4-7 days on threshing floor and threshed by manually or bullock/power drawn thresher. The clean seed should be sun dried for 3-4 days to bring their moisture content at 9-10%. The seed should be safely stored in appropriate bins and fumigated to protect them from bruchids.
Yield – A well mange crop yields about 15 – 20 quintals of grain per hectare.
Lentil is a protein/calorie crop. Protein content ranges from 22 to 35%, but the nutritional value is low because lentil is deficient in the amino acids methionine and cystine. Lentil is an excellent supplement to cereal grain diets because of its good protein/carbohydrate content. It is used in soups, stews, casseroles and salad dishes. Sometimes they are difficult to cook because of the hard seed coat that results from excessively dry production conditions.
Lentils which fail to meet food grade standards (graded #3 or below) can be used as livestock feed because of their high protein content and lack of digestive inhibitors.
Lentil can be used as a green manure crop and one particular Canadian variety, Indianhead, provides a large amount of fixed nitrogen (estimated to be 20 lb/acre).
The lentils are great source of protein and some other necessary nutrients. Raw lentils are 1% fat, 25% protein, 11% dietary fiber, 8% water and 63% carbohydrates. It is also a great source of essential nutrients such as folate, thiamin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, phosphorus, iron and zinc. The lentil is called as ‘poor man’s meat’ in some South Asian countries.