Skip to content

Better pea and faba bean germplasm for the future

This four-year project tested 1,200 lines of pea and faba bean germplasm, submitted 40 for variety registration and put the best in front of farmers at regional variety trials.

How competitive is your favourite hockey team? Diehard fans will tell you, it’s not just about the product on the ice today. They also want to know their team is developing good young prospects in the right way. This helps ensure that the team’s long-term future is bright.

The development of new pulse crop varieties works on a similar principle. Beyond what Alberta pulse growers can plant today, they want to see the pipeline stocked with promising germplasm for tomorrow.

Robyne Bowness Davidson has been on the front lines of pulse germplasm development for years now. She believes existing pea and faba bean varieties are solid enough, but we shouldn’t stop there.

“Alberta has a very unique climatic environment, that’s different even than next door in Saskatchewan,” said Bowness Davidson, Lacombe-based Pulse Research Scientist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. “Most of our peas and faba beans originate in Europe, which doesn’t get as cold, their season is longer and their climate and organic matter are quite different.”

For these reasons, Alberta needs to develop and nurture germplasm that suits our growing conditions and addresses the top agronomic priorities identified by growers: standability, maturity and disease resistance.

Test many, select the best available

Between 2013 and 2017, Bowness Davidson led a project to evaluate pea and faba bean germplasm. This work was supported by Alberta Pulse Growers through the Alberta Crop Industry Development Fund.

At trial sites in Barrhead, St. Albert and Vegreville, Bowness Davidson put both European and University of Saskatchewan lines through their paces. More than 300 genetic lines were tested in each of the project’s four growing seasons.

“We tested some brand new varieties,” Bowness Davidson said. “Once we identify a line with potential, then we can get it into the Co-op variety trials.”

Co-op variety trials are the final step before breeders can submit their genetic lines for registration as a variety through CFIA regulations.

Pea varieties such as CDC Meadow and AAC Lacombe are products of this process of testing and selecting the best of what Europe and Saskatchewan have to offer. Between 2013 and 2017, at least five lines each year were submitted for variety registration.

The third stage in developing Bowness Davidson’s pea and faba bean farm team was to show the most promising registered lines to growers. With regional trials across the province in over 15 locations, pulse growers could get up close and see how these new varieties might perform on their own farms.

It’s at that moment, Bowness noted, that years of germplasm evaluation work pays off and growers get a good look at the future.

“The way to increase pulses in the rotation is to put the best-yielding, best-standing and most disease-resistant varieties in producers’ hands,” she said. “It’s all about giving producers the right tools. If we can put it in their backyard so they can see it, that really helps. Producers like the variety trials, and ultimately, that’s who we’re trying to please.”

Project at a glance

Project title:                Evaluation of Field Pea and Faba Bean Germplasm for Alberta Growers

Project lead:                Robyne Bowness Davidson, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry

Total value of project: $1,467,289

Start date:                   April 1, 2013

Completion date:        March 31, 2017