Skip to content

Alberta Agriculture Evaluating World’s Best Pulse Varieties for Alberta Growers (PCN Fall 2013) OCT 21 2013 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News

This article appeared in the Fall 2013 issue of Pulse Crop News.

Breeding better pulse varieties has been top-of-mind for Alberta crop producers who are looking for an Nfixing crop with good standability, disease resistance, and yield. But with a decade of expensive testing needed to develop each new variety, researchers at Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development (ARD) have been working on a better way to get new varieties into growers’ hands quickly and less expensively.

Dr. Sheri Strydhorst, Agronomic Research Scientist with ARD, and her research team continue to evaluate a wide range of available international pea and faba bean germplasm (in this case, seeds) for adaptability in Alberta.

In order to identify lines that will be best-suited to Alberta’s growing conditions, Strydhorst’s team obtained germplasm from breeding institutions from across the globe – including lines from homegrown breeding programs like AAFC in Lacombe and the Crop Development Centre (CDC) at the University of Saskatchewan, as well as lines from Limagrain’s breeding program in the Netherlands and DL Seeds’ German and French breeding programs from NPZ Europa.

A total of 917 lines are being tested at sites in St. Albert, Vegreville, Brooks, Lacombe, and Barrhead (which had 100 per cent hail damage in July). Following the research protocols established by each individual breeder, Strydhorst’s team will seed the new lines during each year of the study and then assess them based on emergence, the number of days to flowering, height, lodging resistance, days to physiological maturity, thousand seed weight, and yield. A statistical analysis conducted by the research team will determine the best varieties based on those traits.

“What we’re looking for is improvements in the varieties in terms of yield, standability, maturity, seed size, bleaching resistance, or the chemical composition of the seeds,” Strydhorst explains.

Of the 917 lines being tested, Strydhorst’s team will identify the best 20 to 30 lines that are adapted for Alberta. From there, the breeders will select the best 10 lines to be put forward to the Prairie Recommending Committee for Pulses and Special Crops (PRCPSC). There, the lines will be considered for registration in Canada, at which point they may become available to growers.

Because this project is a continuation of an earlier project previously led by Ken Lopetinsky and then Mark Olson, there has been some success in getting new varieties into growers’ hands. In the previous iteration of this project, 31 new field pea and six new faba bean lines were recommended for registration at the PRCPSC. Of those lines, eight pea varieties and one faba bean variety – all better than the check for at least one attribute – are now commercially available for Alberta growers.

And producers are not the only ones who benefit from this approach. International breeding institutions generally do not have the capacity to conduct adaptability trials in large geographic areas, so by partnering with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development on a project like this, breeders from across the world are able to test the adaptability of their germplasm in Alberta.

As a result, producers gain access to new varieties quickly and less expensively, and breeders gain access to a new market for their varieties – a win-win situation in light of the potential profit gain producers stand to see from access to better varieties, according to Strydhorst.

“In 2007, the average pea production in the province was 31.6 bu/ac. In 2012, it was 40.7 bu/ac,” Strydhorst says. “On average, between that time period, growers increased their pea yield by 9.1 bu/ac, and at a price of $8.32 per bushel, pulse growers were able to earn an extra $75 per acre – without additional input costs.”

And Dr. Strydhorst believes that part of that increase in yield – and, ultimately, profit – can be attributed to new genetics.

“I think for the Alberta pulse industry to remain competitive and continue expanding acres and exports, growers need to have access to the best varieties out there,” said Strydhorst. “This project provides growers with those new, better varieties in a very economically feasible way. We’re taking the best varieties from everywhere and then handpicking the best for our Alberta growers.”