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Cultivation of lentils
Lentils are the legume of the most ancient cultivation in the history of agriculture due to the easy adaptability of the plant even to very poor substrates. They come from the east, but to date the most valuable varieties are grown in Italy: just think of the famous lentils of Castelluccio di Norcia, in the Val di Nievole or Altamura. They are annual plants, which do not exceed the height of 40 cm. Legumes are flattened and contain from 1 to three round-shaped seeds, which may have different sizes. The most cultivated varieties in Italy are those with seeds less than 6 mm in diameter. Also the color of the seeds can vary from yellow-orange to gray-brown, from green to black depending on the variety chosen. The most suitable soils for the cultivation of lentils are sandy, but the plant is also suitable for clayey bases, as long as water stagnation is avoided.
Preparation of the soil and sowing of lentils
The lentil is generally cultivated in rotation with cereals such as barley and wheat; the soil must be prepared by plowing immediately after harvesting the cereal and then aged during the autumn in case of autumn sowing, and in autumn and winter in case of spring sowing. Lentils are generally planted in November in low-altitude areas and between March and April at higher altitudes. We use about 300-400 seeds per square meter, arranging them in rows spaced about 20 cm from each other. The depth of the seed in the soil must be around 4 cm for seeds with a diameter less than 6 mm and at most 6 cm for seeds with a larger diameter. Sowing is carried out with wheat seeders. The fertilization is ideally carried out before sowing the previous crop with manure, but at the time of planting the lentils the soil can be enriched with phosphorus and potassium.
Collection of lentils
Lentils are harvested when the aerial part of the plant is almost completely dry. As for the lower plants, the harvest must be done manually by cutting or removing the shrubs, which are generally left to dry in the field before being brought to the ginning site. If the plants are taller, it is possible to proceed with the mechanized harvesting of the lentil using a combine equipped with pick-up; the plants are then transported to hot and dry places for drying. It is however advisable not to delay the harvest too much because the seeds may start to lose color or be attacked by parasites. For low-altitude soils, a yield of about 1.5 / 2 tons per hectare can be counted, while at high altitude it will be lower.
Cultivation of lentils: Pests and intercropping
The lentil does not have much suffocating power compared to the weeds that grow spontaneously around its plant, and given the proximity between the rows of plants it will be necessary to eradicate the weeds by hand to avoid problems. With regard to insects, the curculionid beetles of the adult genus Sitona feed on the leaves, while the larvae eat the roots. The Etiella moth in zinckenella larva rode legumes. The seeds in stock are exposed to the attack of the Bruchus ervi and Callosobruchus chinensis weevils. Another type of problems due to fungi and bacteria can derive from root rot and rust. The lentil plants grown in association with olive groves, fruit plants and vines instead benefit from their proximity and in turn positively influence their growth.