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Prettier Pea Soup on the HorizonBy Kathryn Barry Stelljes
June 25, 1997
PULLMAN, Wash., June 25--Tomorrow's split pea soups could be a deeper green or a brighter yellow, thanks to three new dry pea varieties released this week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and university researchers.
"Farmers will benefit from the larger pea size and better disease resistance of the new peas. And consumers may appreciate a more colorful bowl of soup," said Frederick Muehlbauer, a geneticist here with USDA's Agricultural Research Service.
Muehlbauer developed the peas, named "Joel," "Fallon" and "Shawnee." He leads the ARS Grain Legume Genetics and Physiology Research Unit. ARS released the new peas in cooperation with Washington State University and the University of Idaho.
Joel, a green dry pea, resists powdery mildew and has greater yields and larger seeds than the popular Columbian and Alaska 81 varieties now grown. "Joel peas retain an attractive dark green color after cooking, which is important to consumers," Muehlbauer said.
Fallon and Shawnee are yellow dry peas. They have higher yields, larger seeds and better color than the industry standards Rex, Latah and Umatilla.
Fallon is a semi-dwarf, semi-leafless plant. These traits help the plants stand upright because the plants are shorter and their extra tendrils intertwine to hold each other up. Taller, fully leafed varieties are more susceptible to falling over, known as lodging, in wind or rain. The semi- leafless trait also improves air circulation around the plant, reducing the damp conditions under which some diseases thrive, Muehlbauer said.
The Pacific Northwest and Northern Plains states, mostly Washington and Idaho, produce most of the nation's dry pea crop. In 1996, farmers grew 190,000 acres worth $26 million. About two-thirds of the peas are exported to Europe and Central and South America.
Plots of the pea plants will be on display July 10 at the Spillman Farm Field Day in Pullman.
Researchers can obtain small amounts of seed from Muehlbauer. Commercial growers should contact the Washington and Idaho state crop improvement associations for seed. Fallon and Shawnee should be available for the 1998 growing season, Joel in 1999.
Joel was named after a small town in Idaho. Fallon and Shawnee were named to commemorate historical railroad sidings in the Palouse region of Washington.
Scientific contact: Frederick J. Muehlbauer, Grain Legume Genetics and Physiology Research Unit, Agricultural Research Service, USDA, Pullman, WA 99164-6421. Phone (509) 335-9521, fax (509) 335-8674.