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Lentil – Varieties

Variety Testing Procedures

Registered lentil varieties are entered into the Alberta Regional Variety Test Program. These trials are run annually across the province to collect yield and agronomic data. This data is then made publicly available through the Alberta Pulse Growers and the Alberta Seed Guide.

The data and descriptions include:

  • Varieties currently being tested
  • Varieties previously tested, with sufficient data, are also listed as “fully tested varieties”.
  • When pedigreed seed of the older varieties becomes unavailable in Alberta, the variety will be removed.

Choosing a Lentil Variety

There are many varieties of lentils, each with its own characteristics and target markets. Alberta produces two major groups of lentils. A Chilean type (large-seeded) and a Persian type (small –seeded). Other niche markets include red-split lentil, zero-tannin lentil and small black (Indian Head) lentil. Lentils are primarily used for food with only a relatively minor amount used as livestock feed. The two main market classes of lentil are the green and red types. Green lentil is usually marketed as a whole seed, while red lentil is marketed as whole seed or in dehulled and split form. The majority of world lentil production and trade is in red lentil. 

The following checklist of variety factors should be considered in variety selection:

Variety Checklist

YIELD

  • A number of site years provides the best data only if these sites represent similar growing conditions.
  • Check data from local zone, industry, and regional trials. 

Location

  • Use a combination of growing season precipitation and soil type – data from sites with abnormal precipitation the previous year may be suspect.

HEIGHT

  • Small red varieties can range from 30 to 37 cm in height.
  • Extra small red can vary between 30 to 35 cm in height.
  • Large red can vary between 37 to 38 cm in height.
  • Small green can vary between 33 to 36 cm in height.
  • Extra small green grow to 30 cm in height.
  • Medium green between 34 and 44 cm in height.
  • Large green can vary between 38 – 41 cm in height.

Standability

  • Standability considers vine length, amount of precipitation, wind damage, variety and soil nitrogen levels – all standability ratings are lower in dry years compared to wet years, even for the same variety.
  • If standability is important, choose varieties with ratings of 5.0 or less.

Maturity

  • Varieties range from early to late maturing.
  • Days to flower can range from 47 days to 52 days.

Seed Size

  • Seed size influences both seeding rate and seeding cost.
  • In some cases, larger seed varieties produce higher yield, but the cost of seed should be considered in light of any potential yield increase (market type – including seed size, shape and cotyledon colour – is also important).
  • Lentil varieties produce seeds ranging from size small, averaging under 40 grams per 1,000 seeds (g/1,000 seeds), to large, which average over 50g/1,000 seeds.
  • Resource:  Government of Alberta’s Seeding Rate Calculator.

MARKET

  • Green Market Class:
    • Green market class varieties typically have yellow cotyledons with green seed coats and seed size is described as large, medium, and small.
    • About 7% of the green lentils are large-seeded and about 25% are classified as small greens.
    • Green lentils are consumed as whole seed.
    • Most large green varieties require early seeding because of their relatively late maturing, indeterminate growth habit.
    • The tall stature of these varieties can make them prone to lodging, and susceptible to Botrytis (grey mould) and Sclerotinia (white mould) infection in high moisture conditions.
  • Red Market Class:
    • Red market class varieties typically have red cotyledons with grey seed coats.
    • Although sometimes consumed whole, red lentils are typically dehulled, or dehulled and split, to increase palatability.
    • Red lentils are divided into large, small, and extra small market classes.
    • Small red varieties tend to be earlier maturing and shorter than green varieties.
  • Speciality Market Class
    • Speciality market class varieties are grown in small volumes.
    • Black-seeded lentil (Indianhead variety), originally intended for use as a green manure or plow down crop, has been marketed more recently as a Beluga, or black lentil.
    • French green lentils have a green marbled seed coat with yellow cotyledons, small seed size most similar to small red lentils, and retain their shape better than small reds or greens upon cooking.
    • Green cotyledon lentils have a green or marbled seed coat with green cotyledons and a small-to-medium seed size.
    • o      Spanish brown lentils have a grey dotted seed coat with yellow cotyledons, small seed size most similar to small reds, and are sold primarily into Spain.
    • Varieties with the Clearfield® trait (have CL suffix) have tolerance to imidazolinone herbicides, such as Odyssey®, Odyssey DLX®, and Solo®. These herbicides if applied to conventional lentils will cause injury. 

Disease resistance

  • Some varieties have partial resistance to ascochyta and anthracnose.
  • Be aware that varieties with ascochyta resistance rated as good is still only considered intermediate resistance and Anthracnose resistance is only to Race 1.
  • Integrated disease management practices are important, as the varieties can still be infected with the diseases.