Though pulse crops face challenges, their long-term outlook remains bright - which an upcoming conference will help to illustrate, a pulse grower leader said.

"This will be chance (for attendees) to catch up on the new developments with pulse crops," said Chris Westergard, the Northern Pulse Growers Association president and a Dagmar, Mont., farmer.

The association holds it annual convention Jan. 28-29 at the Clarion Hotel in Minot, N.D. More than 300 people are expected to attend, if the weather cooperates.

Traditionally, the pulse convention is held a few days ahead of the annual KMOT Ag Expo (billed as the area's largest indoor farm show) in Minot. That encourages producers to attend the pulse convention and then stay in Minot for the Ag Expo, convention organizers say.

This year, the Ag Expo is held Jan. 30, 31 and Feb. 1, a week later than usual, to avoid conflict with a big Canadian farm show. As a result, the pulse convention is being held a week later than normal, as well.

Convention activities begin with a welcome from Westergard at 12:30 p.m. Jan. 28 and ends with the association's board meeting and reorganization at 2 p.m. Jan. 29.

The agenda includes sessions on marketing, pulse breeding and weed control and disease issues, as well as presentations from officials with the USA Dry Pulse and Lentil Council.

There are a dozen types of pulses (the name derives from an ancient Greek word for porridge), including lentils, dry beans, dry peas and lentils, and they come in many shapes, sizes and colors. Some of the basic types, especially dry beans and dry peas, have even more variety.

The Upper Midwest climate favors growing the crop. Montana and North Dakota lead the nation in pulse production, and pulses are grown in Minnesota, too, giving the Minot event - which primarily attracts Upper Midwest producers - even more prominence.

Area pulse production had been rising for many years, reflecting pulses' growing popularity with consumers who see them as nutritious and affordable. Adding pulses to crop rotations also brings agronomic benefits to farmers.

But pulses have stumbled after India, traditionally the world's top importer of them, slapped high tariffs on U.S. pulses. That's cut into U.S. pulse exports and consequently pulse prices.

Domestic demand for U.S.pulses remains strong, however, enhancing the long-term outlook, Westergard said.

Susan Jaconis, director of research for the USDA Dry Peas and Lentic Council, will give an update on domestic marketing at 11:20 a.m. Jan. 29.

Crop prices in general are struggling, and so many many farmers remain interested in pulses, especially because of the agronomic benefits they provide, Westergard said.

Pulses "are still a fit for a lot of farms," Westergard said.

More information or to see the agenda or to register: